04/10/2013

Peace Centre Funding Withdrawn

European Union funding of £18m for the peace centre at the former Maze prison has been withdrawn, after parties were unable to agree on the details surrounding the development.

The Special European Programmes Body said it had removed the financial support after consulting with the Office of the First and deputy First Minister.

They said they decided, after the talks, that the centre was no longer viable.

The decision to build a peace centre at the former Maze site has caused controversy from the off set, with many unionists claiming it would become a "shrine" to the republican prisoners who died on hunger strike in 1981.

Now, funding for the project has been withdrawn and will instead be put towards other developments either in Northern Ireland or on the border counties in the Republic.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds said:"This announcement by the SEUPB highlights the substantial sum of money to be reallocated to other projects across Northern Ireland. I welcome the desire to see this money stay in the Province rather than return to Europe.

"As MEP, I work alongside many groups who have great ideas but simply cannot access funds. These funds represent a real opportunity and over the coming days I will be continuing to lobby SEUPB to ensure this money is used to the maximum community benefit."

But Alliance Lagan Valley MLA Trevor Lunn blamed the DUP for the decision.

"I am disappointed but not surprised that the Special European Programmes Body has withdrawn this funding," he said.

"The blame must be directed to the DUP and Peter Robinson, whose procrastination has led to this situation. It was a cowardly move by Peter Robinson to make this U-turn while he was in America. This example of weak leadership has now resulted in a major development opportunity being lost that would have created a large number of jobs and been a big boost to our struggling construction sector. The public deserves more than this type of petty politics.

"Northern Ireland now risks the possibility of losing £18m of investment as it will be difficult to redirect this money to other projects within the given time frame."

(IT)

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