Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

'Huge interest' in Maze development

Several unionist politicians have called for Maze cells which housed hunger strikers to be flattened

Global interest has been expressed in development of the site of a former high-security prison in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.

First Minister Peter Robinson lambasted critics of the Maze/Long Kesh peace and reconciliation project, and said it would be one of the most important construction schemes in the UK.

It follows years of political disagreement over what should be done with the site, near Lisburn, which housed paramilitary prisoners during the 30-year conflict.

Mr Robinson said he hoped construction jobs would not be the only benefit. "There is massive global interest in the potential of that site, its location is such that it is a prime and attractive site that I believe can provide jobs and economic growth," he said.

He fielded questions on the issue at the Assembly, and accused the people who suggested and approved the location of the centre at the Maze of later claiming it was in the wrong place - singling out the Ulster Unionists.

Ten men died at the prison in the 1981 republican hunger strikes. Unionists were concerned it should not become a "republican shrine".

It has been designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, known for his involvement in the plan for building on the site of New York's Ground Zero.

The structure sits between two other sets of buildings that have also been retained and include parts of the former prison such as a watch tower, hospital, compound and H Block. There are also two Second World War hangars that were part of the old Long Kesh RAF airfield.

Most of the cost of the peace-building and conflict resolution centre will be met by an £18 million grant from the European Union. The 350-acre site of the former prison is being redeveloped at a cost of £300 million. A large part of it has been designated for the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS).

Since the jail closed in 2000, there has been a constant debate about how the site should be used.

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