Maze site 'will be shrine to peace'
Published 24/04/2013 | 12:51
A former Northern Ireland prison site which once housed republican hunger strikers will become a shrine to peace, Martin McGuinness said.
The ex-IRA commander-turned-Deputy First Minister joined Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson to dismiss fears terrorism would be glorified by the redevelopment of the former Maze/Long Kesh jail near Lisburn in Co Antrim.
The prison hospital where Bobby Sands starved to death and an H-block which housed paramilitary inmates have been preserved while a peace and reconciliation centre is to be opened in two years as part of investment expected to total £300 million on the sprawling complex.
Mr McGuinness said: "This building will only be a shrine to peace."
Some unionists have called for the prison relics to be flattened over fears they could become a monument to terrorism. A coalition of victims' groups, including relatives of some killed by the 1998 Real IRA Omagh bomb, has also asked for the peace centre to be moved.
Mr Robinson said "scaremongering garbage" from some unionist politicians could agitate the suffering of thousands of victims of the 30-year conflict. "There will be no shrine to terrorism, no glorification of terrorism at Maze/Long Kesh," he said.
Proposals for a "script" telling the story of Northern Ireland's troubled history at the Maze have not yet been agreed by the two ministers.
The First Minister said: "We will do it with all sensitivity to the victims of terrorism, there is no intention on anybody's part to try and increase the anguish that people have had over the years.
"No one has asked for a shrine to terrorism to be constructed at the Maze, Martin has made it very clear that he does not want a shrine to terrorism. It will be, I hope, a beacon of hope to the rest of the world that people can climb out of conflict and move towards a peaceful and stable society."
The 347-acre site has been a Second World War air base, an Army barracks and a prison. It is best known as the setting for the 1981 hunger strikes by members of the IRA and republican faction the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), when 10 prisoners died in a protest to secure political rights from Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government.