Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Maze: The twists and turns of a tortuous saga

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

Our reporter charts the years of controversy surrounding the former prison site.

1998-2000: In the two years following the Good Friday Agreement, 428 prisoners are released from the Maze. The final 80 imprisoned for terrorist offences leave in July 2000

September 2000: The final four prisoners at the Maze are transferred to other prisons and the Maze is closed.

January 2003: A monitoring group is set up to debate the future of the 360-acre site. A museum, a multi-purpose sports stadium and an office, hotel and leisure village are among the early suggestions

May 2006: The Maze/Long Kesh Masterplan and Implementation Strategy is released, outlining the main proposals for the site -- the construction of a sports stadium, involving the GAA, rugby and football, and an international centre for conflict transformation

October 2006: Demolition work starts in preparation for construction on the site.

June 2007: DUP MP Nigel Dodds says a stadium at the Maze site would not be acceptable if the complex also contained "a shrine to IRA terrorism".

December 2008: Belfast Telegraph reveals a deal between Sinn Fein and the DUP has ruled out the prospect of a multi-sports stadium at the Maze for another four years.

January 2009: Plans for a multi-purpose stadium on the site are scrapped by Sports Minister Gregory Campbell, who claims the Maze plan does not enjoy sufficient political consensus and is not financially viable.

May 2010: £12.5m of public money has been spent on plans to redevelop the former Maze site. The figure was released by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in reply to a question from Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn.

June 2010: Plans for the future development of the Maze will include a conflict transformation centre, it is confirmed. The site will retain a number of listed buildings, including the H-blocks.

September 2010: The conflict transformation centre at the Maze should be open by 2015, the First Minister reveals.

September 2011: The first public tours of the Maze site take place as part of heritage open days.

March 2012: It emerges the Balmoral Show is on the move to the Maze site from Balmoral.

April 2012: Peter Robinson strongly endorses the planned Conflict Resolution Centre at the Maze.

May 2012: Peter Robinson rejects claims that developing the Maze site would create a shrine to terrorism, telling this newspaper: "How on Earth could anybody argue that constructing a purpose-built Peace and Reconciliation Centre would be a shrine for terrorism?"

July 2012: Agreement has been reached on appointing a board to oversee the development of the Maze.

August 2012: It emerges that Daniel Libeskind, one of the world's leading architects, will be part of the team working on the design of the new peace building centre at the Maze.

September 2012: Former Glentoran FC chairman Terence Brannigan is announced as chair of the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation. Eleven board members are also confirmed.

November 2012: The First Minister says: "The regeneration of the 350 acres at the Maze site represents one of the biggest development opportunities anywhere in Northern Ireland".

April 2013: Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Robinson says: "The centre will be a beacon to urge other countries to find solutions to their divisions".

May 2013: Balmoral Show opens at the Maze site

June 2013: DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt apologises for calling opponents of the Peace and Reconciliation Centre at the Maze site "nutters".

July 2013: A war of words erupts between the two main unionist leaders over the Maze peace centre with the First Minister accusing Mike Nesbitt of failing to raise objections to the plans when he was a Victims Commissioner.

Yesterday: Peter Robinson says it would be wrong to proceed with the Maze peace centre in the absence of a consensus about how it will operate.

In a letter to DUP MPs and MLAs, Mr Robinson says there must be a change of attitude by Sinn Féin, especially towards victims of the IRA.

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