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Executive sets aside £1.3m to ‘preserve’ mothballed Maze prison site

MLA questions why the land has not been developed

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Watch towers on the remnants of the former H Block Maze prison at Long Kesh near Lisburn, Northern Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

Watch towers on the remnants of the former H Block Maze prison at Long Kesh near Lisburn, Northern Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

Watch towers on the remnants of the former H Block Maze prison at Long Kesh near Lisburn, Northern Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

Some £1.3m has been set aside in the Executive’s budget to preserve the former Maze prison site, despite plans to develop the land being in limbo for years.

One MLA branded the situation “disgraceful”, accusing the First and deputy First Ministers of being “asleep at the wheel”.

Back in 2019, multi-million pound plans for a peace centre on the site near Lisburn were “set aside” by developers after the EU withdrew an £18m funding offer for the development following a disagreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP.

During a recent meeting of Stormont’s Committee for the Executive Office, MLAs were told £1.3m has been set aside for the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation, an arms length body charged with managing and redeveloping the site.

Independent MLA Trevor Lunn asked if the funding was going towards basic infrastructure or improvements and was told that the money would largely go towards preserving the site, rather than any “significant new development”, and health and safety measures.

The republican hunger strikes in 1981 in which 10 people died, including Bobby Sands, took place in the Maze. The final prisoners were transferred from the Maze in September 2000.

In 2010, it was confirmed that plans for the Maze site would include a conflict transformation centre. However, in 2013 First Minister Peter Robinson said it would be wrong to go ahead with the peace centre without consensus on how it will operate. Six years later, with little progress, plans were set aside.

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Angry: Pat Catney has criticised the lack of movement over the Maze prison site. Credit: Freddie Parkinson

Angry: Pat Catney has criticised the lack of movement over the Maze prison site. Credit: Freddie Parkinson

Angry: Pat Catney has criticised the lack of movement over the Maze prison site. Credit: Freddie Parkinson

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The Executive Office said: “The First Minister and Junior Minster (Declan) Kearney met with the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation (MLKDC) on February 10, 2021 to hear their views on the potential for future development of the site.

“We recognise the potential of the site and hope to find a resolution that will see its regeneration taken forward. Engagement with stakeholders on the detail of the development will then be led by the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation.”

SDLP MLA Pat Catney said: “The way that the Maze/Long Kesh site has been allowed to lie vacant for so long is a damning indictment of the leadership from our joint First Ministers. It’s disgraceful that we’re paying £1.3m for the privilege of doing nothing with a location that could bring new jobs at a time when they’re desperately needed. I was shocked to discover that the joint First Ministers have not met a single stakeholder about development of the site in the last 12 months They are asleep at the wheel.”


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