Belfast Telegraph

Parties must tread carefully to avert crisis

Editor's Viewpoint

The political fall-out following First Minister Peter Robinson's U-turn on the proposed Maze peace centre is causing much speculation, and there is considerable "spinning" of the story by vested interests.

However, it is clear that, perhaps for the first time, Mr Robinson has found himself changing direction because of the strong opposition from his senior DUP colleagues.

It is well-known that Peter Robinson has ruled with an iron grip, and the latest developments may indicate that his grip is loosening.

His political enemies will see this as a weakness, and if the First Minister wishes to assert himself strongly, he will need to come out fighting.

Mr Robinson is known for his toughness in a tight corner, but this crisis will test all his powers of survival.

Some political commentators seem to have swallowed the DUP "spin" that the controversy over recent parade in Castlederg to honour dead IRA men and other republicans was the turning point for the party leader, but those in the know politically are pointing out that senior DUP figures were against the Maze project a long time ago, well before the Castlederg march took place.

It may be that Peter Robinson felt no longer able to hold the line in the face of such strong opposition from his party, and therefore he chose the line of least resistance in attempting to survive as leader.

The initial reaction from Sinn Fein was one of shock, and when they have had time to study all the implications of the First Minister's U-turn, their formal reaction will definitely not make for comfortable reading.

The Belfast Telegraph did not agree with the siting of a peace centre at the Maze, which was always going to be controversial.

However, we took the view that once agreement had been reached, the project had to be completed in order to avoid the kind of mess which has now been created.

There is much at stake here on all sides, and it is a time for cool heads and careful responses.

A collapse of power-sharing at Stormont is not in the best interests of anyone.

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