Republicans were last night accused of jumping on the bandwagon of a residents' anti-stadium campaign, in order to advance the cause of an alleged "shrine to terrorism".
Sinn Fein’s 14-strong group on Belfast City Council yesterday vowed to oppose any move to build a stadium in the city’s Ormeau Park, following representations from residents. But DUP MP Sammy Wilson said republicans’ real agenda was “a shrine to terrorism” on the alternative site of the old Maze prison at Lisburn.
A Sinn Fein spokesman confirmed yesterday that the party had always supported the Maze proposal “in conjunction with the conflict resolution centre”, which many unionists fear will become a shrine to PIRA hunger strikers.
In a statement, Sinn Fein said its city council grouping made its decision to oppose the Ormeau Park proposal following objections from residents in that area.
South Belfast councillor and MLA Alex Maskey said: “There are particular concerns around the loss of green space, as well as the knock-on effects that such a stadium would have – such as increased parking and traffic problems and noise pollution.”
DUP leader Ian Paisley, who came out in June in opposition to the Ormeau Park proposal on the grounds that it would be contrary to planning law in a public park, now finds he is backed by Sinn Fein on the issue.
Mr Paisley also said it would interfere with local churches, one of which is The Martyrs’ Memorial, where he is the minister.
But Mr Wilson said Sinn Fein was not motivated by community concerns. He added: “Sinn Fein only want the stadium at the Maze as a trade-off.
“If the football fans get a new stadium at the Maze then republicans will get their shrine there too.”
And he added: “It is significant now that the biggest supporters of the Maze site is Sinn Fein, which should set alarm bells ringing.”