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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
Causeway 'a political football'
Giant's Causeway
The issue of a visitors' centre is controversial
A property developer has said he is being used as a political football in a row over proposals to build a visitors' centre at the Giant's Causeway.

The DUP's Environment Minister Arlene Foster had initially said she was "minded" to accept Seymour Sweeney's proposal to build the centre.

It later emerged Mr Sweeney was a DUP member, however, he has never given a financial contribution to the party.

Coleraine council has voted to keep the proposed centre in public hands.

A statement released on behalf of Mr Sweeney said he was "particularly concerned by the attempts to use him and his company as a political football when the real focus should be on the provision of an urgently needed world-class visitor centre".

On Tuesday, Sinn Fein called for the DUP to clarify its relationship with the millionaire developer.

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

It has also emerged that Ian Paisley Jnr bought a house in Bushmills at full market value from Mr Sweeney.

Ian Paisley jnr, Seymour Sweeney (centre) and Ian Paisley - Pic Pacemaker
Seymour Sweeney said he had not given the DUP money

Ms Foster said it was "rubbish" to suggest that she was influenced by Mr Sweeney's membership of the DUP.

The managing director of Seaport Ltd said he had never met Ms Foster or Nigel Dodds, the economy minister who has dropped plans to spend 21m of public money on the centre.

He 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 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.

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