Page last updated at 06:09 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 07:09 UK

Maze row 'harming development'

Plans have been made to build the stadium at the Maze
Plans have been made to build the stadium at the Maze

Failure to agree a plan for the former Maze prison is jeopardising future development opportunities, NI Secretary Shaun Woodward has said.

Sinn Féin will not support the plans for a national stadium unless the County Antrim site includes a conflict transformation centre.

However, some unionists oppose the centre being built there.

Mr Woodward said the deadlock meant it was hard for him to ask government to hand over disused army bases.

"I am the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the Cabinet and I think anybody who knows me well, knows I love this place and I will fight harder than anybody for Northern Ireland," he said.

"It just doesn't help if I go in there hoping to score a six on the cricket ground and find that my bat's been broken and that's the point I am making about the Maze."

'Value for money'

Mr Woodward said it was difficult for him to argue for old military sites, such as land in Omagh which is earmarked for a possible school development, to be handed over.

"The point I was making is that if I am being asked to go to the Treasury to say, will you give me the site at Omagh, which is worth well in excess of £100m - that is tax payers' money," he said.

"If I'm going to do that then I need to demonstrate that this is value for money.

"It does, therefore, trouble those who look at this and see that there is still no satisfactory resolution on what will happen at the Maze."

The Gaelic Athletic Association, Irish Football Association and Ulster Rugby have all confirmed they would play games at the Maze venue.


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