Northern Ireland

Maze peace centre: Reaction to Peter Robinson statement

The Maze prison closed its doors in 2000
Image caption The Maze prison closed its doors in 2000

There has been strong reaction to the statement by First Minister Peter Robinson that it would be wrong to proceed with the Maze peace centre without consensus.

Colin Worton, brother killed by IRA at Kingsmills

"If the decision is to bury the Maze, then I welcome it.

"It simply should not be put on the shelf and then brought out to re-erect at a later stage. The whole lot should be flattened.

"The IRA don't know what the truth is. It reinforced my decision what happened last Sunday whenever they walked through Castlederg. They have no respect for anybody.

"Terrorists cannot justify unjustifiable murder and this was what the Maze was going to be. The Maze was going to be a shrine, no matter what the DUP said.

"A terrorist is a terrorist. I don't care where they come from or who he is or what he is.

"A terrorist that murders innocent victims, their story should not be told. These people are anything but human, they are animals. Their views should not be taken on board. Nobody should glorify terrorism."

Alan McBride, wife and father-in-law killed in Shankill bomb

"I have sympathy for where Colin is coming from, the whole victims question is extremely emotive.

"I have always felt the story of the Maze prison should be told, it is right that it is told - it happened.

"People need to go there, they need to learn from our conflict and we need to make a very definitive statement that these types of things should never, ever happen again.

"For me the question wasn't about should a peace centre be built at the Maze/Long Kesh or not, it's how it was going to be done and how the story was going to be told.

"I think the story can be told with sensitivity. People could visit and they could make their own minds up about what went on here. I don't think it needs to be the coat-trailing triumphalist sort of shrine that people are talking about.

"I think the scaremongers have won the day.

"It is right we park this for now, let the dust settle. I believe, fundamentally, as a society we have to learn from the horror of what happened here, I don't know that it needs, necessarily, to be something that glorifies terrorism at all.

"Let's tell the story warts and all and let people make their mind up."

Orange Order's Deputy Grand Master Alistair Smyth

"This commonsense decision will be broadly welcomed across the wider unionist family, but more importantly by those who suffered directly as the result of the vile terrorist campaign waged by republicans.

"Their resolve, dignity and quiet determination over recent months is to be greatly admired.

"The Orange Institution, which has lost 337 brethren as a consequence of terrorism, consulted internally among our membership and directly with various victims' groups on this deeply emotive issue.

"From these conversations it was made abundantly clear those concerned will never countenance the prospect of a so-called peace centre at the very site, where those who inflicted nothing but anguish and sorrow upon the law-abiding majority, were quite rightly incarcerated for their horrific crimes.

"We make no apology for standing up for the rights and entitlements of innocent victims."

Progressive Unionist Party leader Billy Hutchinson

"We welcome the remarks by the first minister as a positive step. The PUP has been the only party to hold a consistent position on the Maze site and our opinion remains that it should be razed to the ground.

"However, while this is a welcome step it does not go far enough. We need to ensure the issue is dealt with once and for all. We believe the only sensible option in relation to the Maze is to de-list the buildings and flatten them to the ground."

NI21 leader Basil McCrea

"I firmly disagree with the stance the first minister has taken on the Maze. The DUP is in the middle of a crisis of confidence which is resulting in a crisis of confidence within unionism. Rather than face down the extremes within his party and on the streets, from a weakening position Peter Robinson has allowed the DUP to revert to type.

"NI21 supports the development of a peace centre at the Maze site. A centre dedicated to learning about and celebrating the delivery of peace can benefit our entire society going forward. Unfortunately, unionism is in a pattern of walking away from the table, then coming back and getting a worse deal than was originally offered. The main way to ensure that any peace centre does not become a 'terrorist shrine' is to take ownership of the project, define it and ensure it is a positive success.

"Today, Sinn Féin must be delighted that the language of a 'terrorist shrine' is back on the agenda and unionism looks weak and increasingly intolerant - despite what the first minister says, his opponents' day is not over.

NI Commissioner for Victims and Survivors Kathryn Stone

"Our team has spent some time this morning talking to members of our Victims and Survivors Forum and I think it is true to say that some members of the forum are triumphant, feeling that this is a vindication of their view that the peace building and conflict resolution centre should never have gone ahead at the Maze.

"Others feel completely dismayed, bewildered that this decision should have been taken. It is important that it is recognised that the job of the commissioner for victims and survivors is to represent that diversity of views.

"One person said: 'I am very disappointed, I personally feel we need to get beyond this, it was a good opportunity to work towards reconciliation. This is a step backwards.'

"Another person, in contrast to that, has said: 'This is the best news we have had in a long, long time. There should have been no shrine, now or ever, send the money back'."

Former republican prisoner Paul Butler

"This is a huge decision to scupper the peace centre. But we have been here before.

"This is more to do with divisions within unionism between the DUP, the UUP and the TUV, and also those within the DUP who have never came to terms with being in power and having to share power with Sinn Féin.

"It is not going to happen at the present. But what Robinson has done - along with the DUP - is that he is looking at future elections and the battle for hearts and minds within unionism. But they will have to come back to it. If they do not, the Maze/Long Kesh site is going to be a wasteland.

"If we want to get back to putting something positive on it, the DUP is going to have to come back to talk to Sinn Féin and sort this out."

Alliance Party MLA Trevor Lunn

"This cowardly move by the First Minister may gain the DUP more votes, but in reality they have failed to earn the trust and respect of voters which would allow them to lead a constituency through a difficult issue.

"He has proven himself to be weak - issuing this from Florida to avoid dealing with his partners in government and the press on such a significant decision.

"There are serious questions that must be answered, including how much this project has cost so far. Planning fees, architect fees, business case preparation and EU funding disregarded, all amounts to a considerable sum. I would predict the DUP has cost the public purse several million that will never be recovered.

"Alliance has always recognised the importance of acknowledging and coming to terms with our past, if we are to move forward in building a shared society for everyone. We continue to support the Maze/Long Kesh development and recognise the economic potential it has for Northern Ireland. But we have always said that anything approved for the site must promote reconciliation, be inclusive of all perspectives and not celebrate terrorism or glorify violence."

Willie Frazer, Families Acting for Innocent Relatives

"The innocent victims and members of FAIR, and indeed wider afield, welcome the news that the Maze has been shelved but that does not mean that this battle is over.

"We have warned the political representatives that unless they deal with victims like ourselves and represent the views of the wider Protestant unionist community this process will only be going backwards.

"There is a reluctance to deal with the genuine victims and their concerns. Even with the situation with Mr Haas there is a continual attempt to keep us away from him and a refusal to let us engage with him. Nobody wants to move on as much as the victims but not at the expense of glorifying terrorism and demonising our loved ones, thereby justifying the murders and maiming of thousands of innocent people."