NI21 leader Basil McCrea has rejected claims by NI Conservative Trevor Ringland that he was “coming perilously close to legitimising republican violence and acting as an apologist for the IRA”.
The accusation was made in relation to a blog which Mr McCrea said had been written about “compromising after conflict”.
In a party statement, Mr Ringland accused Mr McCrea of “searching for headlines and something distinctive to say”. He added: “However, you really have to question the judgement of some of his latest statements and in particular some of the comments about republicanism.
“To say that republicans ‘need something to sell’ and to cite the Maze development, is to come very close to implying that we need to allow people involved in paramilitarism to celebrate and justify their violent past.
“David Trimble was right when he said that just because you have a past doesn’t mean that you can’t have a future, but we must be very clear that people who acted outside the law during the Troubles were wrong.
“We must build a society where we can all prosper and that is certainly not a matter of offering republicans, or loyalists, ‘something to sell’ to fellow extremists.”
But Mr McCrea hit back, saying it was disappointing that Mr Ringland had chosen to “selectively quote” from a blog about “compromising after conflict”.
The MLA added: “For the record terrorism is morally repugnant, counter-productive and leaves a legacy that will not be erased for many years.
“NI21 does not support the building of a shrine anywhere, let alone at the Maze. But we were given assurances by Peter Robinson that the peace and reconciliation centre would be no such thing. It is clear that our society needs some form of reconciliation and an agreed way forward or we risk falling back into the tragedies of the past.
“How we engage with each other in attempting to build a better future is important and perhaps the Conservative Party should take note.”