Money previously earmarked for the Maze peace centre but now withdrawn should be spent on more worthy projects within Northern Ireland, unionist politicians have urged.
The £18 million funding offer is no longer valid now that First Minister Peter Robinson has effectively vetoed its construction at the site of the former prison.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Robinson stood over his decision and said it should pose no threat to the wider development of the Maze.
“The Programme for Government commitment is to develop the site. The commitment itself does not specify how the site is to be developed.
“It is only when you get down to looking at the time scales and the various elements of the scheme that you come to the peace centre, so there’s nothing to stop us from proceeding to develop the site,” he told the BBC.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds said the decision by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) presented a “real opportunity” for alternative development.
Mrs Dodds said: “I have spoken to SEUPB chief executive Pat Colgan over recent weeks, and again today, to highlight some of the projects that can be delivered within the timeframe available.
“One such project, the Valley Park Shared Space Project in Newtownabbey, is ready to be rolled out and has been previously approved for funding by SEUPB.”
Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has also spoken to the SEUPB regarding the reallocation of the PEACE III programme £18 million.
“This is welcome news as I have always opposed the use of PEACE funding to develop what would become a shrine to terrorism and re-traumatise those who have already suffered most in our society – the many innocent victims of terrorism,” he said.
Mr Nicholson said he would be writing to the SEUPB to establish which alternative projects they were considering.
He also said it was possible the funding could be available at a later date.
“I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets – they made it very clear that while it is not going to be dealt with under PEACE III, that would not rule out that it could return again under PEACE IV.
“But that is an argument for another day – we haven’t even agreed the numbers for PEACE IV yet,” he added.
TUV leader Jim Allister said he hoped the EU funding would be “spent wisely” and “not on some other unmeritorious schemes”.
He said: “Now that the letter of offer on the maze has been rescinded, republicans need to get over themselves and let true economic development be the driver at the Maze site.”
However, Basil McCrea has accused some politicians of “celebrating economic stagnation” by “taking delight in the Maze debacle”.
The NI21 leader said: “Fifteen years after the Belfast Agreement our so-called leaders are prepared to ditch their Programme for Government Agreements to satisfy party political squabbles.”