Belfast Telegraph

Opinion remains divided on peace centre at the Maze

By Liam Clarke

A third of people in Northern Ireland support building a controversial Peace and Reconciliation Centre (PRC) at the former Maze site, the Belfast Telegraph poll has revealed.

But a further 20.4% believe that there should be no development at all at the Maze site at all until there is an agreed way forward from Sinn Fein and the DUP, suggesting the public are divided on the issue.

This is the position of Sinn Fein, and it is surprisingly shared by nearly a quarter (24.7%) of Protestants.

Last year the EU funded the PRC to the tune of £18.1 million as a landmark development on the old Maze Prison site.

The DUP initially backed the idea and it was written into the Programme for Government. However, the party withdrew support and exercised a veto when it encountered public opposition from groups representing victims of terrorist violence.

Although the PRC was separate from the old H-Block which is preserved nearby, there were fears that it could still become a "shrine to terrorism".

Sinn Fein responded by vetoing most other developments on the 347-acre site. At present only the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society show is allowed to go ahead.

The whole issue has become a running sore in the Executive with Sinn Fein claiming that the DUP cannot be trusted, and trying to block other measures in response.

The Belfast Telegraph poll offered three options for dealing with the impasse. They were that all developments including the PRC should go ahead with no vetoes (as Sinn Fein advocates), that the PRC should not be built at the Maze but other developments should proceed (the DUP position), and that there should be a moratorium on all developments until there was an agreed way forward on the PRC.

Continuing with other developments but not the PRC was favoured by a large minority of 28.4%, but was marginally less popular than building the PRC (32.4%). The least popular option was a general moratorium on development, favoured by a fifth of respondent (20.4%).

Support for building the PRC and all other developments came predominantly from Catholics (63% favoured it) but it was also backed by 12.1% of Protestants, a third (33.8%) of people giving other religions and 25.3% of people with no religious belief.

Support for building the PRC was strongest amongst 18-24 year olds (45%) and declined across the age range until it reached a low of 27.9% amongst the over 65s.

It found significantly more favour with men (38%) than women (27.4%).

On an area basis, support was strongest in Tyrone/Fermanagh (49.2%) followed by Armagh/ Craigavon (44.6%) and Belfast (40%), all of which areas had about 11% don't knows.

There have been years of political disagreement over what should be done with the site near Lisburn, which housed paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles from 1971 to 2000.

Ten men died at the prison in the 1981 republican hunger strikes.

As recently as this week controversy flared over claims that the former bed of hunger striker Bobby Sands was still preserved at the site.

Earlier this year a charity became the latest victim of the deadlock at the heart of the Stormont Executive, after it failed to gain approval for fundraising open days near the former prison site.

The Ulster Aviation Society had hoped to attract 8,000 people to see its collection of aircraft housed in old wartime hangars.

How our poll was carried out

Polling was carried out by Belfast- based polling and market research company LucidTalk. The project involved interviewing a random sample of 1,089 Northern Ireland residents, aged 18+. The sample of 1,089 was carefully selected to be demographically representative of the residents within the targeted geographic area i.e. Northern Ireland.

Polling took place from September 11-24 this year. The project used 20 poll questions agreed with the Belfast Telegraph and other poll project partners. All poll questions were agreed with the project partners, and also to British Polling Council (BPC), and professional market research standards, to ensure neutrality and balance.

All data results produced are accurate to a margin of error of +/-2.9%, at 95% confidence, All reported margins of sampling error will include the computed design effects for weighting.

LucidTalk is a member of all recognised professional polling and market research organisations.

Belfast Telegraph


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