Protest at Maze over terrorist shrine (UTV)

A large gathering was reported to be in attendance at Thursday night’s meeting as well as victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer and TUV leader Jim Allister.

Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott was at the protest, where he outlined his opposition to the Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre at the Maze/Long Kesh site.

Speaking ahead of the event, he said: “No-one disputes the need for the Maze site to be redeveloped in this manner. Today’s announcement that 760 jobs are to be lost at FG Wilson’s comes in a week when those claiming unemployment related benefits has already risen to 63,100, so it is patently obvious that the local economy needs all the jobs and investment it can get and sites such as the Maze can help deliver that.”

”What Northern Ireland does not need is a centre built on the site of the former Maze Prison which incorporates an H-Block and the former hospital wing,” the Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA continued.

“These are buildings which were listed under direct rule and three subsequent DUP Environment Ministers refused to change their status meaning that legally they must be preserved. Why preserve the places where convicted terrorists were sentenced to and where hunger strikers died?

“For many victims of terrorist violence the retention of the Prison Hospital in particular does not lend itself to any notion of peace and reconciliation and it will inevitably become a place of pilgrimage for republicans.”

“Even if it is not intended as a terrorist shrine it will certainly amount to as much for those republicans who visit,” he added.

Mr Elliott said that he was not against a Peace Building Centre but was opposed to its location at the Maze site, which he said is “inappropriate and insensitive to victims”.

He suggested that the Royal Agricultural Society’s annual show, which will no longer be held at the King’s Hall, would be a better option for developing the site.

Jim Allister said: “The First Minister tells us there’ll be no shrine, but the same First Minister and DUP blocked a stadium, unconnected to prison buildings, simply because the prison buildings were on same site and because their presence tainted the site as a republican shrine. Was that a wrong call?

“Yet, now, the same DUP supports not just a Conflict Transformation Centre, but the same prison buildings as an integral part of that development, but expects us to believe they won’t become a shrine.”

The future usage of the former prison site outside Lisburn has sparked much debate since it was closed 12 years ago.

However last week, First Minister Peter Robinson said that “there will be no shrine at the maze”.

He said that the 347-acre site, with development potential, “should be bringing in hundreds of jobs”.

Mr Robinson was speaking after the appointment of Terence Brannigan as the chairman of the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation on Monday.

“What we do want is to exploit the economic potential of the site and also the peace-building aspect of it, where there’s great potential for us to have a role in peace building and I would have thought that’s something that everybody in this community should welcome,” he said.

“Challenges lie ahead, particularly given the economic climate we now find ourselves in.

“But it is imperative we grasp rare opportunities, such as the regeneration of Maze/Long Kesh, to aid growth and promote prosperity.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that the Stormont leadership is “committed to maximising the economic, historical and reconciliation potential of the site – for the benefit of all sections of our community here and further afield”.

He added: “As plans progress, the regeneration of the former prison site will send out a powerful, physical signal highlighting how society here has been transformed and regenerated in moving beyond conflict.”

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