First Minister Peter Robinson changes tack on Maze prison plans
First Minister Peter Robinson has strongly endorsed the planned conflict resolution centre to be based in two H Blocks of the old Maze prison.
The centre was long opposed by his DUP party as a “shrine to terrorism” because it included the hospital wing where 10 republican hunger strikers died in 1981.
Instead, the party now sees it as a means of passing on the lessons of our conflict and peace process to other troubled regions.
Mr Robinson promoted the idea to delegates from more than 40 countries at a conference in Dublin yesterday.
He told them: “We have recently secured almost £20m from the European Union to build a conflict resolution centre at the Maze/Long Kesh prison site.
“This will maximise the economic, historical and reconciliation potential of the site and also send out a powerful signal to the international community that Northern Ireland has moved beyond conflict.”
He added: “Out of a site that was once a manifestation of individual, organisational and even so
cietal failure, we want to achieve something new that demonstrates our desire to build a brighter, better and shared future for all.”
In his speech he quoted David Trimble. Mr Robinson said: “David Trimble once said that just because someone has a past doesn’t mean that they can’t have a future. That is undoubtedly right, but the future must demonstrate a complete break from the practices of the past.”
The DUP leader drew three main lessons from the peace process. The first was that “both sides must want it to work”, which meant recognising that there is no “possibility of outright victory” for either one.
The second was that “the protagonists must be forced to choose between violence and democracy”.
Finally, he stated his belief that “the settlement must command widespread support across the community”.
He described the 1998 Good Friday Agreement as a “significant development” that was weakened because it did not command majority support amongst unionists.
He stated that “unionists were slow to accept or appreciate that after the fall of the majority ruled Parliament at Stormont in 1972, some form of power- sharing was inevitable”.
However, he added that when unionists did accept power-sharing, “constitutional nationalists set the bar too high to achieve it”.