Words used by Martin McGuinness in the Assembly about those who helped scupper the Maze peace centre insult those IRA victims who opposed the centre, Mike Nesbitt last night said.
The Ulster Unionist leader said that he was “disgusted” to hear Mr McGuinness tell the Assembly that the Maze had been scuppered by a combination of the UUP and “extreme loyalists”, a phrase he also used to describe those rioting on the streets.
The Deputy First Minister made the comment as he responded to a question from Mr Nesbitt over the Maze peace centre.
Mr Nesbitt said: “Our key partners were the innocent victims’ groups, prison officers, the UDR Regimental Association, the RUC George Cross Association and RUC widows.
“To call the widows of police officers ‘extreme loyalists’ is not only wrong, it is deeply offensive and brings the office of the Deputy First Minister into disrepute.
“I understand Martin McGuinness does not like what has happened with the so-called peace centre, but this use of language is not acceptable and suggests he is in denial concerning the fact that significant sections of our community who could not be reasonably described as other than moderate, are totally opposed to these plans.”
Kenny Donaldson, of the group Innocent Victims United, said Mr McGuinness’s words were “an absolute outrage”.
UKIP MLA David McNarry said that the “offensive” words “do not bode well for Haass or anything else” and called on Mr McGuinness to “define just who he’s talking about”.
Mr McGuinness said: “It is about the commitment of all of us to stand by the agreements that we have made. It is about the commitment of all of us to face down violent extremists, whether they be so-called dissident republicans or extreme loyalists...the combined efforts of the Ulster Unionist Party, supported by extreme loyalists, in mounting a campaign against the peace building and conflict resolution centre were deplorable.”
Mr McGuinness also said he was disturbed by the suspected UVF shooting of a 24-year-old woman in loyalist east Belfast recently and claimed if republicans had been involved there would not have been “silence” from unionist ranks.
When asked by the TUV leader, Jim Allister, if he would use his “inside knowledge” to help police catch “the child killers of Warrington”, Mr McGuinness said that he had no personal information of the atrocity in which Tim Parry, 12, and three-year-old Johnathan Ball were killed.
Mr McGuinness said that “we all have to recognise our role in the conflict”. But DUP MP Gregory Campbell said that Mr McGuinness had a “grim and grisly past”.
The Deputy First Minister also said that there can be no wider development of the Maze site unless the peace centre goes ahead. The TUV’s Samuel Morrison said that that stance was “completely unacceptable” and he supported the site’s economic development.