Ulster Unionist ‘fury’ over Haas comments

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Lisburn Councillor Alexander Redpath has said he is “furious” that US Diplomat Richard Haas appears to have given his support to the building of a Peace Centre at the former Maze Prison site.

The plans for a Peace Centre at the Maze were shelved following a high profile campaign by victims groups, as well as the Ulster Unionist Party, the TUV and UKIP.

However, the centre, which was to be designed by world famous architect Daniel Libeskind, may now be back on the agenda after Dr Haas raised the issue at the recent Joint US Congress Foreign Affairs Committee.

During his testimony to the committee, Mr Haas said: “Why wouldn’t there be a museum somewhere dedicated to the troubles where you try to come to a common narrative?”

When asked if such a museum would be constructed at the Maze Prison Dr Haass commented: “There are a lot of potential resources that could go in there to develop that area. Put aside the questions of the historic places.”

Dr Haas insisted he reserved the right to publish his own report, independently of Northern Ireland’s political parties.

“We reserved at the time the right to issue our own assessments and make recommendations. A step we continue to consider and may indeed well take,” he said.

Local Ulster Unionists have reacted with outrage to Dr Haas’ comments, accusing him of “arrogance” with no mandate from the people of Northern Ireland.

“The extent of this man’s arrogance is staggering,” said Lisburn Councillor Alexander Redpath.

“He has no mandate from the people of Northern Ireland, consequently he has no credibility to make these suggestions independently of the political parties.

“Dr Haass spent 33 days in Northern Ireland and doesn’t have the faintest notion about many of the topics discussed in the talks.”

Mr. Redpath continued: “The Ulster Unionist Party did not fight tooth and nail opposing this terrorist shrine to have it resurrected in an independent Haass report.

“The Haass talks ended without agreement and the revelations regarding Sinn Fein’s involvement in the ‘on-the- runs’ scandal has proven they approached the entire process in bad faith.

“The Ulster Unionist Party has published its own position in regards to the issues of parading, flags and dealing with the past I call for all other political parties to do so.

“A frank, open and honest exchange will follow which will provide a productive way forward.”