Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Stalling peace centre 'a mistake'

Martin McGuinness will also challenge political unionism not to cave in to hardline loyalists

Stalling development of a peace centre at the former paramilitary prison is a mistake, Martin McGuinness is expected to tell republicans.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister will use a commemoration speech in Co Leitrim to launch a stinging attack on the Democratic Unionist's decision to halt the controversial conflict resolution centre at the Maze in Co Antrim.

The Sinn Fein deputy leader will also challenge political unionism not to cave in to hardline loyalists, urging DUP leader Peter Robinson to avoid "continually feeding the insatiable appetite of those who see life through a red, white and blue prism".

The Maze/Long Kesh - the site of the IRA hunger strikes - housed paramilitary prisoners from 1971 to 2000. It closed when inmates from the Troubles were released.

A watchtower, H-block cell and prison hospital where Bobby Sands starved to death in a 1981 campaign for political status have been preserved but the DUP has vetoed any future public use of the retained buildings.

The Prison Officers' Association has said they should be bulldozed.

Victims' groups launched protests against the development of the peace centre over fears it could "glorify terrorism".

Mr Robinson's dramatic U-turn on support for the centre has engulfed the mandatory power-sharing executive at Stormont in a fresh crisis.

The decision, announced in a letter to DUP representatives, blames Sinn Fein "insensitivity" on issues such as parading and flags, and cited a contentious IRA commemoration parade in Co Tyrone among the reasons for the policy change.

In his address at the John Joe McGirl commemoration in Ballinamore, Mr McGuinness is also likely to express optimism about forthcoming talks with US diplomat Richard Haas which will attempt to tackle troublesome issues such as parades, emblems and dealing with the past.

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