DUP-Sinn Féin dispute leads to cancellation of aviation event

Open days at Maze prison site had been expected to attract 8,000 visitors

This dispute has been running since last year after First Minister Peter Robinson withdrew his support for the centre. Photograph: AP Photo/Peter Morrison

This dispute has been running since last year after First Minister Peter Robinson withdrew his support for the centre. Photograph: AP Photo/Peter Morrison

Wed, Aug 6, 2014, 01:00

The continuing tensions between the DUP and Sinn Féin have resulted in the Ulster Aviation Society being forced to cancel a two-day event scheduled for later this month at the former Maze prison site.

DUP and Sinn Féin politicians yesterday blamed each other for the cancellation of the event, which was expected to attract 8,000 visitors.

Sinn Féin was accused of blocking the event in response to the DUP’s refusal to sign up to the building of a peace and reconciliation centre at the Maze. This dispute has been running since last year after First Minister Peter Robinson withdrew his support for the centre in the face of opposition from some unionist quarters.

The Ulster Aviation Society, which has been based at the Maze for 10 years, has become the latest victim of the dispute, with Sinn Fein refusing to give approval for the open days.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Caitríona Ruane said that the Ulster Aviation Society event could proceed if the DUP agreed to reopen access to the historic prison building.

“There was an agreement on the development and use of the entire site which would have opened up its enormous potential in terms of job creation and economic development,” she said.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said Mr Robinson approved the event but it was blocked by Mr McGuinness.

Ulster Aviation Society chairman Ray Burrows said: “The whole UAS committee are devastated and at a loss to understand why permission has been withheld this year, considering this year’s event was being planned on the back of very successful open day events held over previous years.”