Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Heritage survey to rule on future of Maze

Row over plans for museum at prison

AN expert study that could lead to a Maze Prison H block being listed is due to be completed in the near future, it can be revealed today.

AN expert study that could lead to a Maze Prison H block being listed is due to be completed in the near future, it can be revealed today.

The survey, commissioned by Stormont, is examining all built heritage issues on the 350-acre site.

But its conclusions on the H-blocks and prison hospital will receive the most attention, with a bitter row building up over proposals for a jail museum.

The study is being carried out by private contractors for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister which now owns the land.

It is expected to be concluded during the summer and will then be assessed by the Department of the Environment, the listing authority in Northern Ireland.

The Maze site is being tipped as the most likely choice for a national sport stadium development. But the extent of the land holding means a range of other uses are also possible.

The heritage survey will examine the airfield site within the grounds and second world war defences, along with the H blocks and prison hospital building.

Michael Coulter, director of the DoE's built heritage section, said: "It's looking at the whole collection of buildings there and making an informed decision about them all.

"We will then consider that information and that will probably take us some months."

The prospects for a political consensus on a museum appeared slim today.

DUP Assemblyman Edwin Poots, who sits on the panel drawing up proposals for the prison lands, today said:

"A museum would ultimately turn into a shrine to Bobby Sands and other republicans.

"If there's a DUP Minister over this in the future, they can list whatever they like. As far as we are concerned every square inch should be razed to the ground."

Mr Poots claimed a deal was planned, with Government approval, for a prison museum being traded for republican backing for GAA use of a Maze sports stadium.

Lisburn Sinn Fein councillor Michael Ferguson, however, said he had no knowledge of any deal. He argued that a prison museum could prove to be an international attraction.

"We don't have a monopoly on the site in terms of a museum. For example, I can see no reason to object to the whole history of the prison service being remembered there," he said.

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