Northern Ireland

Glentoran chairman Terence Brannigan to oversee Maze development

Terence Brannigan
Image caption Terence Brannigan has been appointed as chairman of the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation

The chairman of Glentoran Football Club has been selected to spearhead the body that will oversee the transformation of the former Maze prison site.

Terence Brannigan, who is also a member of the DUP, will be chairman of the new Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation.

Mr Brannigan said he expected the development would be well-used and open for a wide range of events.

He said a Conflict Transformation Centre on the site would not be a shrine to terrorists.

"We need to ensure we join with politicians, the community and business groups to get everybody buying into the potential of this site, so we can deliver for the people of Northern Ireland" he said.

The Maze prison housed paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles in Northern Ireland from 1971.

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

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

First Minister Peter Robinson said he was confident the board members' mixture of skills and experience would help transform the site.

"Challenges lie ahead, particularly given the economic climate we now find ourselves in, but it is imperative we grasp rare opportunities such as the regeneration of Maze/Long Kesh to aid growth and promote prosperity," he said.

'Powerful signal'

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said they were "committed to maximising the economic, historical and reconciliation potential of the site".

"As plans progress, the regeneration of the former prison site will send out a powerful, physical signal highlighting how society here has been transformed and regenerated is moving beyond conflict," he said.

Since the Maze closed 12 years ago there has been a constant debate about how the extensive site should be used.

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

In 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.

It is envisaged there will be input from ex-prisoners, prison officers and victims.

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.

Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said: "If the interest was in a neutral reconciliation centre, then it would be built on a neutral site, not one tainted by republican mythology.

"The 180-degree turn which the DUP has perfected on the Maze Shrine, from the days when they rejected a stadium because of such connotations, is telling testimony to the fact that what Sinn Fein wants, Sinn Fein gets."

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