A European Union funding body has ditched its offer of £18 million to help build the Maze peace centre.
The Special European Union Programmes Body said it had withdrawn the funding proposals following talks with the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM)
SEUPB said it was now clear that the project is no longer going ahead after the DUP leader Peter Robinson said during the summer his party was not backing the peace centre after a spat with Sinn Fein over an IRA commemoration in Castlederg, Co Tyrone.
In its statement on Friday, SEUPB said: “We have been in discussions with the lead partner in relation to the viability of the Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre.
“It has been agreed that the project is no longer viable at this time and the SEUPB has therefore rescinded the letter of offer. The SEUPB will now consider the re-allocation of funding to suitable projects.”
First Minister Peter Robinson said: “What the SEUPB is doing is the sensible and practical step of ensuring the money doesn’t find itself going down some black hole.
“It allows them time to look at other projects and spend the money elsewhere.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was disappointed at the withdrawal of EU funding.
However, the Sinn Fein chief said he not given up on the project yet.
“I still hold out hope that at some stage we’ll see it constructed at Long Kesh,” he told BBC’s Radio Ulster Talkback programme.
“I will authorise no other projects (apart from Royal Ulster Agricultural Society’s move to the site) on that site until people come to their senses,” he said.
“What is at the heart of this is power-sharing. From my perspective I want to share power but I can’t do it on my own.
“The peace centre is a government commitment which has to be honoured. If it isn’t, then it damages the power-sharing project.”
The peace money will now be re-allocated to other projects.
These will be based in either Northern Ireland or the border counties of the Republic of Ireland.
While holidaying in Florida, First Minister Peter Robinson sent a lengthy letter to his MEP, MPs and MLAs saying he was no longer backing the development of the peace centre on the site of the former Maze prison.
The dramatic U-turn came rivial unionist and loyalist politicians launched an online petititon against the plans called ‘Raze The Maze’.
He had originally approved the plan as part of a joint DUP/Sinn Fein ‘Programme for Government’.
The DUP leader said there needed to be a broad consensus on how it would operate and what it would contain.
He added that in his view there was no broad consensus on the peace centre.