Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Sort it, or we will be left with a sorry site

Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness and Terence Brannigan (The Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation chairman) at the launch of the plan for the redevelopment of the site in April
Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness and Terence Brannigan (The Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation chairman) at the launch of the plan for the redevelopment of the site in April

The Maze Long Kesh conflict transformation centre was sold as the highlight of the 347-acre development at the former jail for terrorists.

The Titanic Quarter is just half that size – but consider the impact on that development if the signature Titanic building now dominating the skyline had been dropped at the last minute and the budget wasted.

Things could still have happened on the site, but the whole place would have smelt of failure and it wouldn't have been much of a draw for visitors. That is the situation now at the Maze; the site is now far harder to promote than before.

The old H-block buildings, including the hospital wing where the hunger strikers died, will still be preserved as stark memorials to a divided past.

On the other hand, the peace centre – a world-class attraction symbolising the future – will not now be built as a centrepoint.

Recently, when he was still promoting the project, Peter Robinson described the old prison as a symbol of "societal failure" on a site where "we want to achieve something that demonstrates our desire to build a brighter, better and shared future for all".

Yet, surely scuttling this conflict transformation centre at the last moment, with the tenders about to be issued and no agreement, smacks more of societal failure than of hopes for a shared future.

Things should never have been allowed to go this far unless there was the will to proceed.

TUV leader Jim Allister put his finger on the sore point when he said that the Maze saga "typifies the paralysis and dysfunctionalism at the heart and top of this failed Government".

Sinn Fein and the DUP could now lurch into trench warfare, using their vetoes to gum up the wheels of Government. That would produce no winners; instead it would undermine Stormont's ability to deliver.

They need to sort this mess out – not make it worse.

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