Unionists should stop “continually raising” the row over the Maze peace centre and instead focus on developing the site in other ways, DUP MEP Diane Dodds has said.
Mrs Dodds has been criticised by her two main unionist rivals — UUP MEP Jim Nicholson and TUV European election candidate Jim Allister — about her failure to speak out against the proposed peace centre until the DUP’s U-turn on the issue last summer.
In an interview with the News Letter at the Balmoral Show, Mrs Dodds was asked about her decision not to speak out about the issue until Peter Robinson vetoed the project.
Mrs Dodds replied: “I think that instead of continually raising issues around this, what we should be looking at is what’s happening at the Maze here today.
“Actually look at the potential for economic development and the huge success of this Balmoral Show. The future of the Maze site will be in economic development potential. Everything else is off the table.”
When asked how long other possibilities were off the table, Mrs Dodds said: “Everything else is off the table and we have said it very clearly. We are the only party to actually have our own manifesto dealing with victims’ issues.
“We have said that until there is community confidence; until those people who have been so hurt and traumatised and terrorised by the campaign of violence here in Northern Ireland are content, then all of these issues are off the table. I see no sign of that happening.”
But TUV leader Jim Allister yesterday reiterated his claim that the DUP had failed to sign the victims’ contract drawn up by Innocent Victims United because it would have committed the DUP to forever rule out any Troubles project at the Maze site so long as former prison buildings remain standing.
He said: “In her full term as an MEP, I am unaware of a single word from Mrs Dodds on this issue. This is exceedingly odd given that no European issue has been more debated in Northern Ireland. Remember that the centre was to be funded with European money.
“A few months ago Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness posed with shovels to announce the commencement of work at the Maze shrine. Mrs Dodds said nothing.”