SPECULATION MOUNTS OF DEAL BETWEEN DUP AND
by STACEY HEANEY
No decision made on new stadium insists
JUNIOR Minister Jeffrey Donaldson has
rubbished reports that a deal has been struck between the DUP
and Sinn Fein which would spell the end of a National Stadium at
the Maze and the go ahead for a conflict resolution centre.
Speculation was mounting this week that a
deal had been agreed between the two parties which would suspend
a decision on the National Stadium for four years, whilst a
refurbishment of Windsor Park with the building of a new 4,000
seat capacity stand would see International football remain at
its current home.
However, Mr Donaldson said that he could
"state categorically that no decisions have been made'.
"As a Minister working on this I can state
categorically that no decisions have been made either in
relation to the National Stadium or any Conflict Resolution
Centre" he said.
"Discussions are continuing on both these
projects and we hope to have a decision soon."
Mr Donaldson continued: "What is clear is
that the Maze site will develop into one of the major investment
sites in Northern Ireland. We have a number of expressions of
interest in the site and we are looking at these as well as
talking about the stadium. "Let me make it absolutely clear
there is no question of any kind of shrine, either to the hunger
strikers or anything else, being located on the site."
Despite his assurances members of the Ulster
Unionist Party in Lisburn reacted angrily to the reports, with
Mayor Councillor Ronnie Crawford saying he believed the National
Stadium would "never go ahead".
"If this report is true then it will not strr-prise
the people of Lisburn that Sinn Fein and DUP has reached
agreement which will give Sinn Fein their shrine and the four
Belfast City Councillors on the Executive an extension to their
beloved Windsor Park. "The National Stadium will never go ahead
because there was never the will for it amongst the
Belfast-dominated parties in the first place and the Executive
has no intention whatsoever of re-visiting the project. With the
increasing levels of unemployment and the fall in commodity
prices, now is most propitious time to proceed with the Stadium
and boost the failing economy. Costs will be even more expensive
in four years time and the Executive should stop taking the
people of Northern Ireland for fools.
Alderman Ivan Davis added: "The news would be
no surprise. It's been dragging on for seven years and it has
always been obvious that a deal would be done by the two largest
parties. I have always felt that the former Sports Minister
(Edwin Poots) support for the stadium cost him his Ministerial
role and I believe that has now been vindicated. I would also
have to question what role the other parties are playing, it
seems the DUP and Sinn Fein can do what they like."
Councillor David Archer, Vice Chairman of the
Council's Leisure Services Committee stated: "If today's reports
are to be believed then these developments are well and truly
"The alleged deal in question represents a
fair deal for Belfast and a kick in the teeth for Lisburn," he
"I hope all those people who whinged and
whined about not wanting a multi-sports stadium at the Maze
because a conflict transformation centre was central to the
proposal are happy with themselves today. Their schoolboy-like
negotiations have resulted in no stadium and the one thing they
were opposed to happening, a conflict transformation centre is