The Maze and Balmoral Park site offers unprecedented opportunities for everyone.
For those who attend the Balmoral Show next month, this will be an opportunity to see the potential of the site. I know visiting the development will address misperceptions, or concerns.
Maze Long Kesh is the largest construction site in Northern Ireland. This will continue to grow, creating thousands of jobs and putting hundreds of millions of pounds into our construction and supply sectors.
This is an opportunity not only for Lisburn, but for the whole of Northern Ireland. We intend to ensure that as many small and local companies as possible benefit.
The RUAS saw the potential of the site and made a decision to invest. Already there is considerable global interest and I am confident we can build a vibrant development, which will secure significant foreign direct investment.
The remaining prison buildings make up less than 8% of the site. The vast majority of the prison buildings have been removed.
Much has been said about the Maze site – particularly the proposed Peace Centre. Let me be clear: there will be no shrine at the site, or at the Peace Centre. And while wild assertions of scaremongering might buy publicity for political opponents, it will be short-lived.
As the site is developed in the fashion intended, the scurrilous and dishonest claims will be exposed. It is a disgrace that victims should be subjected to this anxiety.
Some have attempted to undermine the proposal for the Peace Centre and spread misleading propaganda. Let's look at the facts:
• The UUP and PUP, who now say they oppose the Peace Centre, are the same parties who voted to release prisoners. Only for them, the site would still be in use as a prison. The DUP opposed prisoner releases;
• The decision on the location of the Peace Centre was led and approved by the UUP. It was a recommendation from the Maze Panel, chaired by David Campbell, who also served as chairman of the UUP. He was nominated to the role by David Trimble, then-UUP leader;
• The new Peace Centre is completely separate from the listed buildings and will be a working centre, dealing with sharing our peace-building experiences, rather than a visitor attraction.
People need to examine the facts, challenge the inaccurate assertions and look at the motivations of those who oppose this development.
Anyone stating what a possible exhibition will comprise is making it up; no such exhibition exists, nor is there any agreement as to the content of any exhibition.
The centre will be a testimony to peace, not conflict. It is a celebration of politics over violence and will be a beacon to urge other countries to find solutions to their divisions.
I continue to oppose the listing of the buildings. When we took over the leadership of unionism from the UUP, we tried to remove the listing; however, this was not legally possible. I fundamentally disagree with the justification for listing. It was listed during direct rule. The UUP were the largest party at that time and the recommendation from the group, led by David Campbell, said this of the buildings: "We believe these structures should be given statutory protection and recommend that the government concludes the formal process of listing as soon as possible."
The current UUP position is one of sheer hypocrisy. However, having inherited from the UUP the concept of the Peace Centre, the listed buildings and the location of the centre at the Maze, I am not prepared to let a site of 347 acres lie derelict.
I will not agree to any shrine, or glorification of terrorism. All decisions in relation to the content of an exhibition – if there is to be one – will have to be agreed by me.
I urge you to attend the Balmoral Show, take the opportunity to see the site and join with me in my ambition that we can build a better, brighter future for everyone by moving forward with growth and investment.