Northern Ireland

Maze prison centre must 'reflect views of everyone'

Maze prison being demolished
Image caption The Maze prison has been demolished

DUP MLA Edwin Poots has said his party has made a "corporate decision" to get behind the redevelopment of the former Maze Prison site.

It is thought that planning approval for the site, which is to include a peace and reconciliation centre, will be granted before Easter.

Speaking on the BBC's The View, the Lagan Valley MLA said the sooner the site is re-developed, the better.

He said the site would not become a republican shrine.

"Just like the policing and justice debate that took place, where people were saying we're going to get Gerry Kelly as our justice minister, that was dealt with," he said.

"If this actually happens, the rumours, the scaremongers will be dealt with and people will see the facts and it will not be a republican shrine.

"We will ensure that the story that is told is fair and it is balanced and it reflects what happened. And what happened was that over 25 years terrorism reigned in Northern Ireland. Thank God we don't have that today.

"We need to reflect on that, that was not a good thing. The message that needs to go out to the world is that terrorism failed."

The jail housed paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles from 1971.

A senior republican ex-prisoner has said any new peace and reconciliation centre on the former prison site must reflect the stories of all involved.

Seanna Walsh said this should include including loyalists and the British Army.

It is thought planning approval for the multi-million pound centre, near Lisburn, will be granted before Easter.

Speaking on the BBC's The View programme, Mr Walsh said the centre must be a place for everyone who was imprisoned or worked at the Maze.

"We, as former IRA prisoners, are interested to ensure that our story is told, but we also accept that there are other stories to be told around the site.

"By that, I'm not just talking about the prison warders and the loyalist prisoners who were held there.

"I'm also talking about the British Army who were stationed there, who guarded us."

The peace building project is part of a £300m redevelopment of the 350-acre site.

The jail, where 10 men died in the 1981 republican hunger strikes, closed in 2000.

Since then, there has been a constant debate about how the site should be used.

It was earmarked for a new national sports stadium but the proposal was rejected after years of disagreement.

Image caption Seanna Walsh said the centre must be a place for everyone who was imprisoned or worked at the Maze

Last June, members of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society voted in favour of moving their headquarters there from the King's Hall in south Belfast.

The conflict resolution centre will provide a place for visitors from around the world to exchange views on conflict transformation, a focus for education and research about the Troubles, together with exhibition space and an archive.

The centre will sit alongside a preserved H-block and other buildings, including the chapel and the hospital where the hunger strikers died.

Some unionists have been critical of the preserving of certain parts because of their significance to the republican movement.

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