Page last updated at 12:47 GMT, Wednesday, 28 January 2009

No sports stadium at prison site

by Gareth Gordon
BBC NI political correspondent

plan for prosposed stadum at the Maze
The sports complex will not now be built

There will be no multi-sports stadium built on the site of the Maze prison in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.

The BBC has learned that Sports Minister Gregory Campbell has ruled out the controversial plan for the site.

He is opting instead to explore alternatives with the soccer, rugby and GAA authorities.

Money will be given to Linfield and the IFA for an upgrade to Windsor Park so internationals can be played there until a permanent solution is found.

The proposed Maze stadium has divided political and sporting opinion like few others.

Now it appears to be finally dead.

In his paper to executive colleagues, Sports Minister Gregory Campbell said the plan did not enjoy sufficient political consensus, and he said a net loss to the economy of between 156m and 193m did not compensate for the non-monetary benefits which may flow from a shared stadium.

Mr Campbell said he now intended to help the three sports to develop solutions to their stadia needs.

One possibility would be the upgrading of existing stadia, but he would also be prepared to consider making money available for the construction of a new stadium on a single sport or shared sport basis.

He also wants to review the work being undertaken by Belfast City Council which says it wants to build its own stadium in the city.

In the meantime, Mr Campbell has told officials to work with Linfield Football Club and the IFA to carry out a limited remedial programme at Windsor Park so that international football can be played there until a permanent solution is agreed.

He said he recognised the need to deal even-handedly with all three sports.

SDLP deputy leader Alasdair McDonnell said abandoning the Maze project would be unforgivable.

"If we lose the greatest of projects for the pettiest of reasons, no-one will forgive them and no one should," he said.

"The Department of Finance is itself in possession of reports indicating that it has the potential to generate thousands of jobs and possibly 10,000."

Sinn Fein's Barry McElduff said sports in Northern Ireland would be the loser.

"There will be far reaching implications for all of our sporting bodies and particularly the GAA, IFA and IRFU," he said.

"We will also lose out on major opportunities and potential windfall associated with grand scale sporting events such as the 2012 Olympics in London.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said: "The primary concern which unionists across the province have always had about the Maze was the potential it had to become a shrine to republican terror.

"Any announcement to scrap the proposed stadium, therefore, does not address the core issue."

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