TUV quits Forum over Maze plan
Jim Allister's Traditional Unionist Voice has pulled out of the Unionist Forum over opposition to the Maze peace centre, it has been confirmed.
The party is the first to withdraw from the taskforce set up to address unionist discontent in the wake of the Union flag protests.
The TUV said the decision to press ahead with the conflict resolution centre on the site of the former prison had created "an unparalleled conflict between innocent victims and the Democratic Unionist Party" (DUP).
A statement said: "It is the strong belief of the party that the greatest issue of concern to the wider unionist community at the moment are the DUP/Sinn Fein plans to build a so-called peace centre at the Maze. While everyone could support the economic development of the site, support within the unionist community for a peace centre on the politically toxic Maze site is almost exclusively confined to the ranks of the DUP.
"The 13 groups representing innocent victims who signed up to the Charter for Innocent Victims, FAIR, the UDR Regimental Association, the RUC GC Association, the RUC GC Widows Association and the biggest mass member organisation in the Unionist community, the Orange Order, have all urged the abandonment of the Maze project.
"If the DUP are interested in Unionist unity they should join with the vast bulk of the unionist community and pull the plug on the conflict resolution centre."
The forum was launched in January by First Minister Peter Robinson and Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt after weeks of violence on the streets linked to the lowering of the Union flag over Belfast City Hall. It was aimed at engaging with the wider community and included eight working groups set up to tackle issues such as parading and flags.
However, the TUV claimed little has been achieved.
"After being launched in a blaze of publicity the forum seemed to quickly disappear. TUV can say from experience that there was very little going on behind closed doors either," the statement added.
In recent weeks senior figures from the Orange Order have gone public branding the forum a sticking plaster that had failed to adequately address concerns of working class unionists and loyalists. The Progressive Unionist Party leader Billy Hutchinson has also been critical of the forum's effectiveness.