Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

The end of the beginning in the campaign against a terrorist shrine at the Maze

Coalition tensions have been high since the DUP pulled out of a deal to build a peace and conflict resolution centre at the former Maza prison site
Coalition tensions have been high since the DUP pulled out of a deal to build a peace and conflict resolution centre at the former Maza prison site
An artist's impression of how the peace centre would have looked
An £18 million EU offer to fund the Maze peace centre has been withdrawn

I don’t make a habit of congratulating the EU, but I welcome last week’s EU Special Programmes Body decision to withdraw EU funding from the so-called Peace and Reconciliation Centre at the Maze.

From the outset, UKIP has opposed the construction of what would inevitably become a shrine to the glorification of terror.

My own opposition from the outset is a matter of record, as too is Nigel Farage’s. Nigel remains the only national party leader to sign the official petition against the proposals.

Earlier this year, I accepted an invitation from UKIP’s deputy leader, Paul Nuttall MEP and visited the European Parliament. Accompanied by my colleague Alan Lewis, we articulated the concerns of victims’ groups opposed to the shrine.

UKIP’s Roger Helmer MEP also exposed the project’s non-compliance with the EU's own peace funding criteria where it mattered most - with the administrators of European Parliament and Commission.

UKIP’s ‘joined up’ approach demonstrates how national politics can deliver locally, as too does our belief in selective co-operation with other parties, when and where it makes sense.

However, whilst withdrawal of EU financial support stops the shrine construction the scheme was never economically feasible and would have created an additional £750k annual burden on the already hard pressed public purse, it’s premature to cheer the demise of the Maze terror shrine just yet.

So long as prison-era buildings remain on the site, the original proposals can be resurrected at a moment’s notice. It’s both telling and sinister that some EU commissars have already expressed hope that the shrine can be completed in the future. This might yet prove to be a part of some half-baked, Haass backed, ‘fudge’.

To invoke one of Churchill’s most famous quotes, withdrawal of EU support isn’t the beginning of the end for this project; it’s simply the end of the beginning in the campaign against it.

We must now redouble our efforts to delist and demolish all remaining prison buildings on the site.

Only following their destruction, can the opportunities afforded by one of the largest development opportunities in the UK for a generation be realised, free from the blight of a toxic and bitter past.

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