Robinson dismisses UUP criticism of Maze document as ‘meaningless twaddle’

The First Minister has said he was unaware of a document on the Maze peace centre which the Ulster Unionist party claims proves the DUP could have linked the Maze peace centre to buildings which housed IRA hunger strikers.

The confidential report, undertaken by consultants Colliers International for the Office of First and deputy First Minister, was released to the UUP after a Freedom of Information Request.

Peter Robinson with DUP colleagues at the Balmoral Show.

Peter Robinson with DUP colleagues at the Balmoral Show.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said details in the report, including that schools could be encouraged to take children as young as six to visit prison buildings revered in republican culture, were “shocking”.

But Peter Robinson yesterday dismissed the report, saying it was not commissioned or approved by any of his party’s ministers or political advisers.

He accused Mr Nesbitt of “desperation” in his party’s election campaign, labelling the UUP’s outraged reaction to the report as “meaningless twaddle”.

“The DUP never saw the document until after the FOI request came in so we had no knowledge of it whatsoever,” he told the News Letter.

“It is not a proposal that would be acceptable to the DUP. It would never have gone anywhere. That is why this is all such meaningless twaddle from Mr Nesbitt.”

Asked if he felt the news could have any negative affect on his party’s performance in next week’s local and European elections, Mr Robinson said he was confident it would not.

“We have already shelved the scheme,” he said. “This is the UUP who have nothing to campaign about. They have got the same reaction as we have on the doors - that Mike Nesbitt is a very unpopular leader, that their vote is going down, so they’re trying to drag anything that they can into the campaign and failing to get anything worthwhile.”

The UUP yesterday said the report shows that the peace centre and original prison buildings were inextricably linked.

The report stated: “What makes Maze Long Kesh different from other peace centres and other sites of conflict is the juxtaposition of existing prison buildings, which were a focal point of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, with a stunning new building which offers an exciting space for a range of activities concerned with peace-building and conflict resolution.”