McGuinness says DUP move on Maze peace centre was a 'mistake'

Martin McGuinness Martin McGuinness made his comments during a speech in County Leitrim

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The Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said the DUP's withdrawal of support for a peace and conflict resolution centre at the Maze prison site was a "mistake".

The centre was to be built as part of a £300m redevelopment of the site.

Earlier this week, the first minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said it should not proceed without consensus.

Mr McGuinness said the move gave "succour" to some "in the extremes of political unionism".

"This week's decision by the DUP to abandon the agreement reached on the future development of the Maze/Long Kesh site is a mistake," he added.

"It is a mistake not just because it jeopardises much needed investment and jobs, but also for the message it sends to the vast majority of people, nationalist and unionist, who are rock solid behind the peace process.

"Some in the extremes of political unionism believe that they can unpick the Good Friday Agreement. Moves like this give them succour.

"However, it ignores the political reality and ignores the fact that the vast majority of unionists want to see this process succeed.

"They are not interested in re-fighting battles that are long over, or harking back to a time that has long gone.

"They want to see their political leaders get on with the job of reconciliation and delivering in the government."

Mr McGuinness made his comments during a speech at a republican commemoration in Ballinamore, County Leitrim, in the Irish Republic.

The DUP have criticised the comments by the deputy first minster.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said Sinn Féin and Mr McGuinness have displayed a woeful lack of leadership and have no one but themselves to blame for the Maze decision.

"The absolute hypocrisy and cheek of Martin McGuinness knows no bounds," Mr Poots said.

"He needs to stop blaming everyone else for the action taken on the Maze and wake up to the reality that his party and their actions are responsible for the lack of confidence that any peace centre can be a shared space.

"He is quick to brand the DUP action on the Maze a "mistake". What about the IRA parade in Castlederg? No mention of that as a mistake. What about the naming of a children's play park in Newry after an IRA terrorist? What about the whipping up of community tensions over parades?

"These never get a mention and are conveniently forgotten by republicans. Sinn Féin are seemingly only interested in playing to a narrow republican base."

Planning approval for the 347-acre site was granted in April 2013 Planning approval for the 347-acre site was granted in April 2013

The board overseeing the redevelopment of the former Maze prison site is seeking "urgent" clarification about the future of the planned peace centre.

Peter Robinson made his remarks in a letter sent to all DUP MPs and MLAs.

The DUP leader's actions were raised at Friday's board meeting of the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation.

There have been years of controversy over the scheme to redevelop the former prison site, which housed paramilitary prisoners from 1971 to 2000.

After plans to build a peace centre on the site were confirmed last year, some unionist politicians and IRA victims' families expressed fears it could be turned into a "shrine" to terrorism.

Mr Robinson has previously rejected that claim, while Mr McGuinness, said the centre would be a "shrine to peace".

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