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Maze stadium plans in turmoil

Plans for a new multi-sports stadium for Northern Ireland were in turmoil last night as speculation mounted that the Government is due to scrap plans for a multi-million pound arena at the Maze.

Sports Minister Gregory Campbell was due to announce plans for the stadium later this month, however, a front-page story in a Sunday newspaper suggested the DUP has been working behind closed doors with Sinn Fein about the proposed plans for the Maze.

According to a report in a Sunday newspaper, the Maze site on the outskirts of Lisburn is to be developed without a sports stadium but with a conflict resolution centre. The 360-acre development will also including housing, retail outlets and leisure facilities.

The report also suggests money from the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review will be freed-up and used to improve Windsor Park facilities— home of both Linfield Football Club and international soccer.

The facelift — which will include rebuilding the Railway End stand as well as building new changing rooms and a facility to test for drugs use — would bring the Belfast stadium up to FIFA standards for home games.

Asked about the speculation, IFA chief executive Howard Wells said: “We are currently in discussions with the Government and Linfield regarding a short-term improvement to Windsor Park for the foreseeable future. By this I mean the next five years.

“That has always been our agenda and as far as I am concerned I know nothing more about an upgrade to Windsor Park than that.

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“Conversations with both Department of Arts, Culture and Leisure (DCAL) and Linfield have been on keeping Windsor Park alive for international football.”

A spokeswoman for DCAL last night told the Belfast Telegraph: “The Minister is planning to make a statement to the Assembly in the early autumn and will not comment on speculation before that.”

Lagan Valley MLA Basil McCrea said that if the weekend speculation was true, Northern Ireland will not get its national stadium in time for the 2012 Olympics in London.

He said Windsor Park needed the cash to ensure the future of international football but accused Mr Campbell and the DUP of “losing sight” of the national stadium.

He also accused the DUP of forging a deal with Sinn Fein regarding the resolution conflict centre which many believe will glorify Republicanism and which will be a major feature of the Maze development: “The national stadium is the future,” he said.

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