Plans for a new international sports stadium at the site of the former prison at Long Kesh were finally axed yesterday.
DUP culture, arts and leisure minister Gregory Campbell declared that the site of the infamous H-Blocks, near Lisburn in County Antrim, would not be turned into the once-mooted showpiece, 300 million pound arena
The north’s three main sporting organisations - the IFA, the GAA and the Ulster branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union - had backed the scheme.
But with unionists and some soccer fans bitterly opposed to the development, Mr Campbell decided to formally abandon the project.
An associated proposal involved one of the H-blocks being developed into a conflict resolution centre, although this plan has been opposed by some unionists who characterised it as a “shrine” to the republican hunger strikers.
It remains unclear when he will officially explain his decision. which was not raised at this week’s meeting of the Northern Executive.
His department said yesterday that he could not comment on the decision until an explanatory paper he had circulated was considered by his Executive colleagues. Potentially this could take two or more weeks.
An alternative plan, to simply open the prison to tourists as a cross-community heritage site, is now under discussion.
The lack of agreement between Sinn Féin and the DUP over the redevelopment of the site was long cited as one of the factors behind the deadlock which prevented the northern Executive from meeting for over five months last year.
Following Campbell’s decision, Sinn Féin spokesman Barry McElduff said rugby, football and Gaelic sports would all suffer, as would the North’s ability to stage events during the 2012 London Olympics.