Developers confirm plans for Maze prison peace centre are 'set aside'
Plans for a peace centre at the site of the former Maze prison have been "set aside", its developers have confirmed.
Terence Brannigan, chairman of the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation, said there were several factors behind the decision. An EU funding programme withdrew its offer of £18m for the Maze development following disagreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP.
In 2013, former First Minister Peter Robinson stalled efforts to build the visitor attraction as part of redevelopment of the sprawling grounds which once housed the high-security jail.
Mr Brannigan said: "The Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre, which had been part of the original proposals for the site, has been recognised as a potential barrier due to a number of factors, including the withdrawal of EU funding and the lapsing of planning permission.
"Given the inclusion or otherwise of any such facility is purely a matter for ministers, our board has set this element aside and focused on developing a much broader strategy to realise the full potential of the Maze/Long Kesh site."
The prison near Lisburn housed paramilitary inmates during the Troubles, and was the scene of the republican hunger strikes in 1981 in which 10 died, including Bobby Sands.
Unionists have expressed concern about the symbolism of building any peace centre there. Some likened it to creating a shrine to terrorism.
Mr Brannigan said: "Our board remains convinced this location has incredible social, cultural and economic potential."
He added: "It is our view the Maze has the transformational potential of acting as a catalyst for the delivery of around £800m investment and up to 14,000 high-quality, sustainable jobs.
"For us not to seek to find a pragmatic way forward would be a dereliction of duty for a corporation charged with securing the regeneration of this strategically located site."
Danny Kennedy, Ulster Unionist candidate for the European Parliament, publicised the decision around the peace centre.
Mr Brannigan added: "The recent meeting with the Ulster Unionist Party delegation was the latest in a number of private political engagements where we shared the history, current position and a potential way forward for the Maze/Long Kesh site which takes cognisance of the location's varied history as well as the current political and economic context.
"Our board remains convinced this location has incredible social, cultural and economic potential."