Upper Bann’s David Simpson played a key role as the DUP’s eight MPs forced party leader Peter Robinson to do an about-turn over the Maze “shrine to terrorism”, the Portadown Times has learned.
Local DUP politicians are totally opposed to the DUP-Sinn Fein peace centre. And it is understood that Mr Simpson stood firm with the party’s seven other MPs to bring about the leader’s changed of heart. He said, “I was determined no shrine should be built at the Maze in any shape of form that would add to the deep hurt of victims’ families. Grassroots unionists wanted nothing to do with any shrine on that site. The leadership finally listened to the people.”
Mr Simpson refused to comment on reports that Mr Robinson’s role in planning the peace centre has left his leadership untenable, and that he used Sinn Fein’s involvement in the Castlederg IRA commemorative parade to get him off the hook.
One local DUP councillor said, “People on the ground have been highly critical about the DUP getting involved in this shrine, with special sympathy for the relatives of innocent victims, and the families of RUC, UDR and prison officers murdered by the IRA.
“Councillors and MLAs were furious. But David Simpson kept his cool. He was the glue that kept us together, and he assured us it would not happen.”
Sinn Fein are furious at the withdrawal, with Upper Bann MLA and Education Minister John O’Dowd suggesting that the scrapping of the peace centre could chase away international investors from the overall Maze project. The Portadown Times rang the DUP press office three times for comment, leaving a recorded and person-to-person messages, but at the time of going to press had not received any response.
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