Robinson walking on shaky ground
These are not good times for First Minister Peter Robinson. He has been less than sure-footed over issues like the flag protest, the violence surrounding the Orange Order march in Belfast and even last weekend’s disorder in the centre of the city. It has often seemed as if condemnation of loyalist violence had to be dragged from his lips. But even with that backdrop, his about-turn on the building of the Maze peace centre is astonishing.
The First Minister was one of the strongest |defenders of the project, once describing as |scaremongering garbage suggestions that it would become a shrine to terrorism. Now, quite bizarrely, he has signalled that the project should be stalled and blames Sinn Fein’s attitudes towards IRA |victims for his change of heart. That he should have made his intentions known by a letter released while he was on holiday in Florida smacks of |weakness. Many will believe accusations that he has surrendered to the hardline rump of his party.
Of course the building of a peace centre at the Maze — site of the H Blocks and the prison hospital where republican hunger-strikers died — was |always going to be a contentious issue for some people, particularly those bereaved by republican violence. But it was a political project, undoubtedly born out of party side-deals, and one which really didn’t exercise the minds of the vast majority of people. But now it has provoked another crisis of confidence in the political administration here.
Sinn Fein is obviously seething about Mr |Robinson’s decision and relationships between the pivotal parties in the power-sharing administration will undoubtedly sink even further. One wonders how Mr Robinson and Martin McGuinness can go on their joint trip to New York next month |pretending that the political climate in Northern Ireland is still warm. Mr Robinson, in the past, has hinted that he may retire at 65 which is next year. Some might wish him good haste in that move, but he was a reforming figure within the DUP and, sometimes, it pays to be careful what you wish for.
Belfast Telegraph Digital