There was outrage in Lisburn this week after the Ulster Aviation Society, based at the Maze, was forced to cancel its planned open days in August after permission failed to be forthcoming from the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister.
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson has laid the blame for the cancellation firmly at the feet of Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
“The first minister approved the open day but unfortunately it was blocked by the deputy first minister who said that he couldn’t consent to the open day to go ahead in the absence of agreement on what happens to the maintained prison buildings on the Maze site. “Frankly it is unbecoming of people in government that we have a minister who decides to block an event that is very popular with the public, all to make a political point.
“I think it is sad, and I have to say petty, that the deputy first minister has decided to punish a charity and punish the public - thousands of whom attend these open days every year - over politics.”
The Chairman of the Ulster Aviation Society, Mr Ray Burrows, said the group were “devastated” over the decision to cancel the open days.
“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,” said My Burrows.
“Planning for this year’s event started in October ’13 and, it would be true to say, it was shaping up to be our biggest and best yet. We held off taking this decision as long as possible, but there obviously comes a time when it is impossible to continue; sadly, we have reached that point in time.
We very much hope that the public and all those who had arranged to participate, especially the other charities involved, will appreciate the Society’s position and we look forward to their continued and valued support in the future.”