Northern Ireland

Peter Robinson says Maze centre 'needs widespread support'

Image caption Much of the site was cleared for development following the prison's closure in 2000

First Minister Peter Robinson has said the Maze peace centre can only go ahead "with widespread community support".

He said people "need to be mature in how they approach the issues and there is no reason why the wider development of the site cannot go ahead".

"What politician is going to say we could have created 5,000 jobs and then didn't?" he added.

He said it would be "cruel" of Sinn Féin to "punish the people of Northern Ireland" over the issue.

During the summer Mr Robinson halted plans to build the peace centre as part of the development of the site of the former Maze prison, a decision that has caused tension between his party, the DUP, and Sinn Féin.

On Monday, the deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, said there could be no development of the wider Maze site unless it is on the basis of previous agreements about the building of a peace centre.

Mr Robinson was speaking on Wednesday during a visit to the Driver and Vehicle Agency in Coleraine, County Londonderry.

On relations with Martin McGuinness, he said: "When you look at what's going on in the coalition government at Westminster things here are sweetness and light in comparison".

He also said Northern Ireland was doing better than other parts of the world, like the US, where the government is shut down.

Meanwhile a former director of publicity for Sinn Féin has said differences over the Maze centre, and other issues, had put the peace process on "a slippery slope".

Speaking on Radio Ulster's Nolan Show, Danny Morrison, now a writer and commentator, said: "I think some of the leaders are sleepwalking us into a situation where they don't appreciate how dangerous this is.

"Also people think there's a great danger, especially within the nationalist and republican communities, that unionists aren't treating this process seriously.

"I think we're on a slippery slope as to whether or not a political arrangement can work in the north."