Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Biting Back: Sport the loser in Maze museum decision

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Cheer up, at least we're still getting a Hunger Strike museum. That was the headline on a column of mine back in February 2009. It followed the sacrificing of the Maze stadium dream on the altar of unionist opposition to a Conflict Resolution Centre on the same site.

I didn't need a crystal ball to predict what would follow, based on unionist opposition to Direct Rule, the Good Friday Agreement, disbandment of the RUC and UDR and their absolute insistence they would never sit in Government with Sinn Féin.

A case of Ulster Says No, Ulster says maybe and then Ulster says, aye alright then. So the Conflict centre confirmed yesterday at the Maze should have been no surprise.

I have no problem with a Hunger Strike museum, nor the loyalist prisoners aspect to the project, which opposing unionists at the time strangely never mentioned. It happened and we can't airbrush history.

My gripe is with politicians who continually say one thing and do another and in this case shafted sport by blocking the Maze stadium plan on the basis of something a mile away which they were certs to say 'yes' to eventually.

How ironic it took a Sinn Féin Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, to underpin the futures of rugby, gaelic games and, hopefully, football in bankrolling the new Ravenhill, Casement and Windsor.

Hopefully, because now dissidents within the football family are threatening the game's share of the money over, it must be said, legitimate concerns about who has been promised what. The place to thrash this out is within football, otherwise there is a danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water. But cheer up. When our cash-starved football grounds are no longer fit for purpose, we can always trip round the Hunger Strike museum.

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