14/10/2008

Maze Stadium To Be Dropped?

After months of political wrangling, and conflicting media reports, the NI Sports Minister now looks poised to ditch plans for a national sports stadium at Long Kesh.

Gregory Campbell (pictured) said finalised recommendations have now been formulated, and he was ready to brief Executive colleagues.

The Minister confirmed he had quizzed football, rugby and GAA officials over a preferred 'plan B', should proposals for a mixed stadium at the Maze falter.

All three sporting bodies had previously backed plans for a mixed-use sporting facility.

However, unionist fractions have continued to blast proposals for a sports stadium located at The Maze - citing its connotations with H-block prisoners as a major political issue.

However, nationalists have insisted a Long Kesh development would project a positive message for the future, by providing a shared facility for the country's main sporting traditions.

This week, Mr Campbell faced probing from DUP colleague Jim Shannon during Ministerial questions.

Mr Shannon asked whether the three main sports bodies had been informed of any alternatives to a shared facility at the Maze.
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Minister Campbell said: "I said to each of them that I knew what their previous position was, and I then alluded to them, 'Is that still your same position?'.

"And then asked them, 'If we were talking then, for whatever reason, hypothetically, if your previous position is not going to be the final outcome, what would your preferred solution be?'

"Now as a result of those discussions I am now in the position where I am able to furnish my Executive colleagues with a paper which should end the uncertainty," he added.

In spite of this, Sinn Fein Lagan Valley MLA Paul Butler has rebuked any alternative proposals, vowing that his party would veto any plans to relocate the stadium away from the Maze.

See: 'Release Stadium Buildings Jobs', Says Sinn Fein

See: Maze Talks Renew At Stormont

See: Maze Stadium Confusion Continues

(PR/JM)

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