Plans for Maze prison peace centre ‘set aside’
Plans for a peace centre at the site of the former Maze prison in Northern Ireland have been “set aside”, its developers confirmed.
An EU funding programme withdrew its offer of £18 million in support of the development following disagreement between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists.
In 2013 former Stormont first minister Peter Robinson stalled efforts to build the visitor attraction as part of redevelopment of the sprawling grounds which once housed the high-security jail.
Terence Brannigan, chairman of the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation, said: “The Peace Building and Conflict Resolution (PbCRC), which had been part of the original proposals for the site, has been recognised as a potential barrier due to a number of factors, including the withdrawal of EU funding and the lapsing of planning permission.
“Given the inclusion or otherwise of any such facility is purely a matter for ministers, our board has set this element aside and focused on developing a much broader strategy to realise the full potential of the Maze/Long Kesh site.”
The prison near Lisburn in Co Antrim housed paramilitary inmates during the Troubles.
It hosted the republican hunger strikes in 1981 in which 10 died including Bobby Sands.
Unionists have expressed concern about the symbolism of building any peace centre there.
Some likened it to creating a shrine to terrorism.
Sinn Fein’s former Stormont deputy first minister Martin McGuinness was a strong supporter and said the commitment should have been honoured or risked damaging powersharing.
He ultimately resigned in 2017 after another row with the DUP.
Mr Brannigan said: “Our board remains convinced this location has incredible social, cultural and economic potential.”
He added: “It is our view the Maze has the transformational potential of acting as a catalyst for the delivery of around £800 million investment and up to 14,000 high-quality, sustainable, jobs.
“For us not to seek to find a pragmatic way forward would be a dereliction of duty for a corporation charged with securing the regeneration of this strategically-located site.”
Ulster Unionist candidate for the European Parliament Danny Kennedy publicised the decision around the peace centre.
Mr Brannigan added: “The recent meeting with the Ulster Unionist Party delegation was the latest in a number of private political engagements where we shared the history, current position and a potential way forward for the Maze Long Kesh site which takes cognisance of the location’s varied history as well as the current political and economic context.
“Our board remains convinced this location has incredible social, cultural and economic potential.”