SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell has accused Peter Robinsion of playing to the “gallery of extreme unionism” over his Maze peace site U-turn.
The south Belfast MP said it was only a few months ago that the DUP leader had described the suggestion that the H-blocks jail and peace centre could become a shrine to terrorism as ‘scaremongering garbage’.
Now in a complete u-turn he says it would be wrong to proceed and blames Sinn Féin’s attitude to victims.
But the SDLP said that Robinson’s sudden volte face has now left Northern Ireland “walking into a political crisis”.
“In his justification for this u-turn the DUP’s attitude to victims, like Sinn Féin’s, has been brought into sharp focus and has yet again proven to be hypocritical and damaging to their credibility,” said Dr McDonnell in a statement on Thursday.
“The DUP are happy to condemn a republican march in Castlederg commemorating IRA bombers but are silent on a similar march in Coleraine when a band named after a UVF terror group killed by their own bomb, paraded through the commercial centre of the town.
“The DUP have been similarly silent when a when loyal orders in Ligoniel employed the Shankill Star Flute Band, formed in the memory of UVF killer Brian Robinson, to parade along the very same road where Brian Robinson gunned down innocent Ardoyne man, Paddy McKenna.
“This u-turn on the Maze is very obviously influenced by a decision to play to the gallery of unionist extremism.
“It is evident that from America, Peter Robinson saw the loyalist mob violence in Belfast city centre at the weekend and decided that he would use the Maze site at a means of appeasing this minority.
“It is clear that Peter Robinson also felt the pressure of the TUV leader Jim Allister and needed to appease him also.
“It is evident that the political process has been soured by DUP actions.
“We are walking ourselves into a political crisis but there is an opportunity to turn this situation around.
“The SDLP is committed to engaging fully in the Haass talks. As a party, we know it will not be easy.
“Everyone will be asked to move out of their comfort zones and make challenging but necessary decisions. Most importantly of all, the parties will be required to show real leadership.
“Not the kind of leadership that panders to extremes, not the kind of leadership that engages in megaphone diplomacy and not the kind of leadership that cannot see beyond the narrow confines of their own community.
“It will not be easy but as leaders we need to give communities confidence and not just talk them into a further identity crisis.
“The SDLP are ready for that challenge and ready to help to communicate what could result in immense and lasting benefits to all of the people of the north.
“Other parties need to demonstrate their willingness to a similar commitment,” added Dr McDonnell.