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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Developer 'never gave DUP money'
Ian Paisley jnr, Seymour Sweeney (centre) and Ian Paisley - Pic Pacemaker
Seymour Sweeney said he had not given the DUP money
The private developer behind the plan to build a visitor's centre at the Giants Causeway has said that he has never given money to the DUP.

Environment Minister Arlene Foster said on Monday she had been "minded" to accept Seymour Sweeney's proposal.

However, there has been speculation that could be challenged in court.

Mr Sweeney said he was a member of the party and had signed nomination papers for a DUP councillor, but had "never given a penny piece to the party".

Mr Sweeney said he had never met Ms Foster or Nigel Dodds, the DUP ministers at the centre of a row, to allow Mr Sweeney's plan to proceed.

Mr Sweeney said he has met DUP leader Ian Paisley who is the MP in his area of North Antrim and Ian Paisley jnr who is an MLA for the area.

The developer said he meets representatives of all the main political parties.

North Antrim Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay had called on the DUP to clarify their relationship with the developer.

Ms Foster has been defending her move and said she had gone to the site herself and had held meetings with officials in the Environment and Heritage Service.

"I am also hoping to go over to Unesco in Paris to speak to the people there as well about their concerns and to listen to what they have been saying to me, before I confirm any decision," she told the BBC's Nolan Show on Tuesday.

Earlier, Chairman of the Causeway Coast and Glen Heritage Trust Dr David Irwin said he was mystified at events.

"We went to international competition, we came up with what everyone considered the almost perfect solution to the problem," he said.

Key stakeholders were unable to reach agreement
Nigel Dodds
Economy minister

"I think this decision is almost certain to provoke a judicial review. I don't know where that requirement will come from, but I will be very surprised if it doesn't come from somewhere."

Meanwhile, Economy Minister Nigel Dodds has dropped plans to spend 21m of public money on the centre.

Mr Dodds said his department and the Tourist Board had become involved "because key stakeholders had been unable to reach agreement".

He said his department had been involved as "a potential developer of last resort".

The Causeway attracts nearly 500,000 visitors a year. The previous visitors' centre on the site burned down in April 2000.

Renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt - resulting from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago - it is the only World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland.

Ms Foster said she had visited the site and there was considerable merit to the Seaport Investments Ltd plan for a new Visitor and Study Centre at the site.


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