Martin McGuinness in 'Maze problem-solving mode'
Martin McGuinness has insisted he remains in "problem-solving mode" over what to do with the former Maze Prison site after plans for a peace and reconciliation centre collapsed.
The Deputy First Minister said he knew of businesses interested in developing the site, but a peace centre remained its "jewel in the crown".
With First Minister Peter Robinson – who effectively killed off the project – sitting opposite him in the Assembly, the Sinn Fein leader emphasised the centre would only be a "shrine" to peace and reconciliation.
But he said there was no agreement between himself and Mr Robinson at present, although they continue to discuss a way forward.
He was commenting after Alliance's Trevor Lunn, who also supports the centre, asked whether political differences in the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers should be allowed to impede economic progress.
"I have always described myself... as being a problem-solver and a solution-seeker, and I am still in that mode. I think that we need to try to overcome the difficulties that we face," Mr McGuinness added.
He said he had every sympathy with victim groups who feel strongly that the project should not go ahead, but he did not agree.
"The peace centre was designed to be just that: a centre for peace and reconciliation. The only shrine at that centre would be a shrine to peace and reconciliation.
"I am also conscious that there are other, politically motivated people on the extremes of loyalism who have attempted to use the situation and, indeed, on occasions, use victims against this project.
"I think that it is time for a big debate within unionism and loyalism about how we should move forward in society. Does the construction of a peace-building and conflict resolution centre on that site contribute to our providing a normal society that is coming to terms with the challenges of the past but is prepared to move forward in unity in the future? I clearly think that it does."
His comments came after the Belfast Telegraph revealed that, even if he and the DUP leader were still to reach a deal on the centre, funding could not be in place for the venture until 2016 at the earliest.