Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Assembly snubbed over Maze announcement, claims Allister

New appointment: Terence Brannigan with Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson

Stormont ministers have been accused of treating the Assembly with contempt by making major public announcements before MLAs are told.

The attack came after the First Ministers revealed the chairman of Glentoran Football Club would head the development of the former Maze prison site.

Leading the criticism was hardline unionist Jim Allister, who also cited as evidence last week’s disclosure that the Department of Agriculture is to move its headquarters to the former Army base at Ballykelly.

“It was telling that instead of coming to the floor of the Assembly with the Maze announcement, the joint First Ministers showed their contempt for the accountability structures of Stormont, to add to the contempt for innocent victims which this project epitomises,” Mr Allister said.

He came in for criticism, however, from the DUP’s Gregory Campbell, who said his remarks were ironic given he had said the Maze project should be judged by whether former terrorists are on the panel — “and it would appear there are none”.

That did not mean the make-up of the long-awaited panel came without controversy.

It emerged that the chair of the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation, Terence Brannigan, was a member of the DUP and had not declared the matter when he applied for the board position.

However, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness avoided any controversy by revealing he was “relaxed” about the situation.

Mr Brannigan said a Conflict Transformation Centre on the site would not be a shrine to terrorists.

“We need to ensure we join with politicians, the community and business groups to get everybody buying into the potential of this site, so we can deliver for the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.

Board members include Duncan McCausland, an ex-PSNI Assistant Chief Constable; Ciaran Mackle, an architect; Ken Cleland, a developer; Professor Terri Scott, who heads the Sligo Institute of Technology, and Tony Gallagher, a pro vice-chancellor at Queen’s University.

First Minister Peter Robinson said: “Challenges lie ahead, particularly given the economic climate, but it is imperative we grasp rare opportunities such as the regeneration of Maze/Long Kesh to aid growth and promote prosperity.”

Mr McGuinness added: “The regeneration will send out a powerful, physical signal highlighting how society here has been transformed and regenerated and is moving beyond conflict.”

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