Maze to become Troubles museum
Northern Ireland political leaders have confirmed ambitious plans to redevelop the former top-security Maze prison site.
After years of deadlock, the blueprint confirms plans for a new facility that will promote the success of the peace process, while also retaining key prison buildings, including those linked to the IRA hunger strike of 1981.
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said a new development corporation would also unlock the economic potential of the sprawling 360-acre site, creating 6,000 jobs.
Mr McGuinness said: "The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister will shortly submit an EU funding application for a Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Facility on the site. It is anticipated that the centre will be a world class facility of international importance designed to strengthen our peace building expertise and to share our experiences with others throughout the world."
Mr Robinson said: "The constitution of a development corporation for this strategically important Maze/Long Kesh site will enable us to realise the full economic potential of the site. The site represents a unique opportunity to help revive our economic output in these difficult times."
The confirmation came hours after Mr McGuinness hinted that a major announcement was imminent.
The issue of how best to redevelop the site has raged since the prison closed in 2000, with unionists previously opposed to plans to retain prison buildings linked to the hunger strike.
But it is understood a committee drawn from a broad section of opinion will oversee the formation of the Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Facility, and could include politicians, security-force representatives, former prisoners and victims of the Troubles.
There have been long-standing plans for what was previously called an International Conflict Transformation Centre, to pass the lessons of the peace process to other global trouble-spots. It was also to retain some of the prison buildings, including one of the jail's infamous H-blocks and the hospital where 10 republican hunger strikers, led by IRA prisoner Bobby Sands, starved to death in 1981.
At the height of the hunger strike, which saw republicans effectively demand the status of political prisoners, Bobby Sands was elected MP for the Fermanagh-South Tyrone constituency. The key prison buildings have already been protected by being granted listed status.