The TUV has confirmed it has withdrawn from the Unionist Forum, mainly due to its opposition to the Maze peace centre.
Jim Allister’s party is the first to withdraw from the forum which was set up by Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt in the wake of the Union flag protests earlier this year following a vote to restrict the number of days the flag flies at City Hall.
When a decision to approve funding for a peace centre at the former Maze prison site was taken, strong debate began between those who support the project and others who oppose it.
In a statement the TUV reiterated its calls for a U-turn on the project, and referred to what it has seen as “unparalleled conflict between innocent victims and the DUP”.
The party added that it is sceptical of the Forum’s potential to achieve anything and said many people have “probably forgotten about its existence”.
“After being launched in a blaze of publicity the Forum seemed to quickly disappear,” the statement read. “TUV can say from experience that there was very little going on behind closed doors either.
“One of the subgroups which did meet on a fairly regular basis was the Parading Group. Interestingly, members of the group learned about the Cardiff talks from the media. Additionally, last month the DUP and Sinn Fein announced that they were going to bring forward their own proposals on flags and parades, something which was also supposed to be discussed at the Forum.
“When fellow Unionists raised the fact that they had not been consulted about the proposals the response from Sinn Fein was, ‘So what?’ The fact that the DUP didn’t bother to tell fellow Unionists before agreeing the announcement suggests that while they may not have said it their attitude was similar.
“It is the strong belief of the party that the greatest issue of concern to the wider Unionist community at the moment are the DUP/Sinn Fein plans to build a so-called “Peace Centre” at the Maze. While everyone could support the economic development of the site support within the Unionist community for a ‘Peace Centre’ on the politically toxic Maze site is almost exclusively confined to the ranks of the DUP.
“The thirteen groups representing innocent victims who signed up to the Charter for Innocent Victims, FAIR, the UDR Regimental Association, the RUC GC Association, the RUC GC Widows Association and the biggest mass member organisation in the Unionist community, the Orange Order, have all urged the abandonment of the Maze project.
“The ironically titled ‘Conflict Resolution Centre’ has created an unparalleled conflict between innocent victims and the Democratic Unionist Party. It could more properly be called a Conflict Centre.
“If the DUP are interested in Unionist unity they should join with the vast bulk of the Unionist community and pull the plug on the “Conflict Resolution Centre”. They have the power to apply the brakes. Let’s not forget that DUP representatives in the past have repeatedly warned of the potential of the Maze to become a shrine to terrorism. Chief salesman Jeffery Donaldson even told us that the victims of terrorism would not visit the site as it would be “an absolute abomination” to them.
“The challenge to the DUP is clear – get onside with the rest of the Unionist community if you are in the least interest in Unionist unity. Put Unionist unity above your unity with Sinn Fein. Stop the Maze Conflict Centre.”