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Maze plan can work, say ex-RUC duo

Two former senior RUC detectives have said the proposed conflict resolution centre on the Maze prison site need not become a “shrine to terrorism” as its opponents claim.

In the Executive’s draft Budget for the next four years, £21.38m has been earmarked for the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to develop the site. Much of the money will be covered by European grants.

Yesterday Roy Beggs, UUP MLA for East Antrim, called for the project to be axed. Describing the idea as “divisive and highly contentious”, he went on to call for this “dark period of our history” to be “left firmly in the past”.

However Raymond White, a former RUC Assistant Chief Constable in charge of Special Branch, said: “I understand the fears that it could be exploited, but if it was handled properly, by objective bodies like the Ulster Museum or the history departments of the two universities, this could be a good thing.”

Mr White, who served in the RUC throughout the Troubles, warned against the project falling into the hands of partisan |organisations and suggested that a victims’ section, with taped |testimonies of Troubles survivors, should be added.

“If we do this properly, for the first time, Northern Ireland could hold up its head and say: ‘Bad things have happened here and this is our story’,” he said.

Mr White has visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem and believes a garden of remembrance and testimonies of the dead could be added to the proposed resolution centre.

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“I would like an oral archive. I would like somewhere I could bring my grandson, look up a Troubles victim in our family and walk away with a record of it,” he said.

Peter Sheridan, another former RUC Assistant Chief Constable, now heads Co-operation Ireland, which brings people from conflict zones abroad to study here.

He said: “We need to take a longer-term view. It shouldn’t be a shrine to anybody. It would be best organised with the selection of material grounded in research, not driven by gut instinct.”

Richard O’Rawe, a former IRA prisoner in the Maze who has written two books about protests there, also believes the site should be used in an inclusive way.

“Why shouldn’t it be a shrine to everybody who died in the Troubles?” he asked. “If we don’t preserve our history, how can we learn anything from it?”

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