Maze development (complete with shrine / conflict transformation centre) moves forward

Pete has mentioned this below but there are now a few more details available: The BBC are reporting that an agreement has been reached on the Maze site (as trailed by Martin McGuinness when the Newry bypass was closed to allow for its official opening).

According to the BBC:

a board will be appointed to oversee the facility. It will comprise of ex military personnel, former prison officers, and police officers along with victims, politicians and former republican and loyalist prisoners.
The facility will be housed in the former prison hospital where the IRA hunger strikers died and in one H block, H6.
If approved by the Assembly, a development corporation for the site could be operational within six months.
The corporation will oversee the opening and redevelopment of the site including the construction of the Peace Building and Conflict Resolution facility.

The news was welcomed by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson.

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.”

McGuinness stated

“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.”

Thus far the only partially dissenting voice has been Sir Reg Empey who said:

“I have been calling for the creation of a Maze Development Corporation for the past 2 years. It is a tried and tested model of delivering development and regeneration. It is a pity that it has taken the First and deputy First Ministers so long to reach this point – 3 1/2 years have been wasted before this point has been reached. That said, I welcome the fact that the First and deputy First Ministers have now eventually come to a decision.
“The issue of the Conflict Resolution Facility is, however, somewhat different. I would be worried that the work of the Development Corporation will be overshadowed by the sensitivities surrounding locating the Facility in a former prison which symbolises much of the pain and division Northern Ireland experienced during the Troubles. The prison is regarded very differently by different political traditions – it would be a shame for the Facility itself to become a symbol of division.
“Considering that recent months have demonstrated how deeply divided Northern Ireland is over the past, I would have preferred the issue of the Conflict Resolution Facility to have been parked for the time being.
“Progress on the Development Corporation is welcome – but long overdue. It is now up to First and deputy First Ministers to ensure that the dithering and delays of the past 3 1/2 years are not repeated”.

  • pinni

    I thought this might draw you out of the woodwork, Turgon!

  • pinni,
    I have been on holiday (Elenwe bans blogging during holidays) and then very busy at work but I am trying to get a couple of blogs together now.

  • HeinzGuderian

    What does the ‘shrine’ consist of ? A chppy ??

  • Hard hat

    Is someone blocking all the posts of shock, horror and disgust?

  • Obelisk

    Thing is, if Reg had his way and the Conflict Resolution Centre was parked it would never have been heard of again…at least until the next political crisis where one side needed to offer/extract something from the other.

    Both side’s agreement was needed to do something with this site. Sinn Fein wouldn’t have moved without some sort of action on the old prison, and would probably have been content to wait until a compromise over their desires was reached, as it now seems to have been.

    In all this is probably a good thing, especially if the economic benefits are even half of what is being promised.

  • A N Other

    The site will also feature statutes of Alex and George, and a full scale replica of the sinking Titanic..

  • Mick Fealty


  • HeartoftheEmpire

    Fair play to FM and DFM – not too many Sluggerites were predicting agreement 12 months ago. It shows how far we have come politically when DUP and SF can come to an agreement on such a sensitive project. After agreement at St Andrews, Policing and Justice, Saville, Windsor Palace, sorry Park (our new national stadium) and now the ‘Lazy K’ – to name but a few – the dissidents and the diehards on both sides are becoming more marginalised and irrelevant. “My mama told me there’d be days like this”.

  • joeCanuck

    It shows how far we have come politically when DUP and SF can come to an agreement on such a sensitive project.

    Totally agree; maybe we can really move forward instead of always looking in the rear mirror.
    But expect soon some ranting from Turgon’s stuck-in-the-past leader.

  • Oh dear, how pathetically sad and unimaginative. That’s just what the island doesn’t need …… an inferior Auschwitz type clone to get obsessive about so that none can forget what would be better not remembered, and always there as a ready made meal to be servered up frigid and cold, or piping hot whenever needed for propaganda purposes/emotional blackmail.

    Who wants to know what you did in the dirty war, daddy? It sucked …. and still sucks in the odd poorly programmed waster and undereducated brainwashed loser, by all accounts.

  • And surely we already have a brand new monument to the decades of ordered madness in Loughside, so why the profligate waste on something ulterior and wholly vainglorious?

  • pinni

    looking forward to reading them!

  • drumlins rock

    What exactly has been anounced apart from the setting up of another couple of Quangos? All that has changed from the first proposals (agreed to by Pootsy yrs and yrs ago) is there is no stadium, so nothing has been agreed really, half the site is still empty, the Showgrounds might get the go ahead at last, and the hospital block remains as a “shrine”. All that has happened is they has passed the buck on to another commisssion, whopee.

  • Ardmhacha

    They should all be ashamed, they could have built a new stadium in an area which is very central and easy to get to from all over the province yet they bickered and brought gutter politics into it.

    Now what are we going to get, a shrine to a period in our history that should be left firmly in our history, take a bow, I’m sure they all feel as if they have accomplished something up on the hill, what a bunch of tosser’s.

    There should have been a national vote on the stadium plans as it was for us all, how did we all stand by and let these clowns mess it up.

  • SDLP Man

    This is a crock of bullsh*t. The “6,000 jobs created” stuff, down from 10,000 jobs a few years ago, is nonsense.

    Leaving aside all the diversionary stuff about shrines to terrorists, this will not be a job-creation project. NI, particularly in the greater Belfast area, is over-shopped, with a massive surplus of work space, office space, industrial units and the like. That’s before we take into account plummeting residential property prices.

    This is all about two things: DUP-SFcobbling together an “achievement” for the elections next May, and secondly trying to tie down the EU money, which has to be spent by 2013.

    I predict that matching capital funding will not be put in place by the Teasury, matching funding from the private sector will not be available because the developers are bust or with NAMA, the banks are broke and the whole thing will be dropped around 2013.

    When will those morons Robinson and McGuinness realise that you can’t create sustainable economic development by building stuff (or very little anyway) but only by nurturing business that produce tradeable goods and services.

  • Didlee D O’Squat

    If only we had known how easy it would be to buy off the republicans. How many good lives could have been saved? Hell I’d have thrown £50 into the pot myself for one of their God-awful monuments at HMP Maze to keep them sweet.

    All we need now is for the most recent incarnation of the Murder Gang to come up with its price. Perhaps a new Skoda for everyone in Kilwilkee?

    Bobby was somewhat off the mark. Not only are the children laughing now. Everyone is, and it’s with derision.

  • Down South

    Isn’t it comforting to say No. That’s crap. Stupid idea. Bullshit. My cat could have made a better call. Pete the octopus would have called it better. I’m very clever.

    It seems a lot of people who read and post here are still angry with something and they want people to know how clever they are and how angry they are.

    Go through all of the posts in the last few days and see how many of them have anything insightful, considered, how many have alternative proposals contained, any acknowledgement of difficulties – try it out, its hilarious and sad too. It seems like a lot of flailing but with no punches landed. Are people so disempowered that they have had to fall back on cynicism and smart arsedness to express their personalities.

    Regards the Maze I am quite glad that something is going to be done with the site, it was never an easy decision and it has taken a lot of bravery to do something collectively. Stadiums 15 miles from City Centres don’t work, as only 40% of a stadium’s income actually comes from sporting events (the rest from conferences, concerts, retail etc). So I’m very glad that the stadium is not being built out there. The conflict transformation idea is a brilliant one and lets make it something Northern Ireland can be proud of. Last December I was in Sudan and they acknowledged how much they had learned from here – in terms of building a strong civil society and working out how to deal with conflict. Like it or not we are now an example for the world to learn from. You can be proud of that or embarrassed by it and maybe it shows that the world is in a bit of a mess and your priorities could usefully move to thinking at that level.

    I’d like to finish the post on a positive note and its a request to see more of your obvious creativity being made public as positivity and ideas generating or genuine acknowledgement of what we might be able to achieve when we have common goals.

  • madraj55

    MF. I think this agreement is yet another example of Robinson now being freed up by the inevitable end of his political career. He knows hewon’t be in the Assembly as FM because he’ll no longer be DUP leader by then. He’s now trying to get his legacy sorted out. There’s nowhere left for him to go other than deals with SF. I suspect he cares little for the DUP anymore.

  • SDLP Man

    Listen, “Down South”, the world has changed, the days of the easy handouts from EU or British Treasury are over. If you think we have built a strong civic society in the North, you are living in cloud-cuckoo land. Thanks to the ‘conflict’ many of our our nationalist areas are plagued with alcohol, drug and violence addiction and a high proportion of its young people simply out of control.

    I’ll tell you what will start to kill the Maze stuff. The putative anchor tenant, the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, will very likely not be able to get anything like the many millions previously mooted for the 100 acre Balmoral Showgrounds site. The house boom, even in leafy South Belfast is over. Even if they do get some money for the site, they will realise the Executive is over a barrel, they will play the ‘beal bocht’ and demand an additional subsidy for moving to the Maze. Project, end of.

    I’d love to know who you were talking to in Sudan. President Bashir, perhaps, looking for tips on how to kill even more people? I hear they talk of little else about the wonderful example of Northern Ireland and what an inspiration it is to the world in the souks and market places of Khartoum.

  • Realistic Projectionist

    A “Troubles Museum” was always going to happen. It’s better an official one is done with a balanced historical perspective than for an independant one to spring up in Andersonstown catering to gullible Americans.

  • Down South

    Thanks for the super insights there SDLP Man. Our Civic Society in Northern Ireland isn’t too bad. I like living here. I like protestants and catholics too as well as lots of people who are neither. It does actually have strong social capital and a sense of identity that is valued abroad. Of course it has loads of problems, name me a society that doesn’t.

    Well done for working out the name of the President of Sudan. I wasn’t talking to him myself but I did see lots of pictures of him on the roads. I was there to train 60 people from peace centres and internal displacement camps in Darfur, academics from Darfur and Khartoum, NGO workers from international aid organisations, politicians from the opposition parties (Umma) and Sheiks from Darfur. My invite there was based on my experience of working on participative processes here in Northern Ireland – not directly related to conflict resolution but more about how to build on common ground. That’s the secret good that is happening in this place – there are thousands of people working behind the scenes to create a stronger society – I admire their work hugely. They don’t seek the limelight.

    In the long run it doesn’t matter what it takes to get the Maze site to work or other projects in Northern Ireland. There is a bigger picture, a longer time horizon and without the bravery to try shit out and to have the permission and acceptance to make mistakes how will anyone learn what works. So what if anchor tenants get a subsidy, so what if they don’t need one. If we value social purpose we have to invest in it. Think of Sweden. Entrepreneurship connected to social investment.

    I’m still optimistic about living here and having lived abroad and had the chance to move South (where most of my work is based) or to the US or Europe I think this place offers more strengths than weaknesses and while its not perfect it is moving in the right direction and that my friend is what matters to me at least.

  • dodrade

    I’ve always thought the “shrine” talk was overblown, do they really think they’ll be selling Bobby Sands memorial tea towels in the maze gift shop?

  • There already is an UN Institute for Conflict Resolution at Magee (INCORE). There is an Institute of Governance at Queen’s University. There is the ARK project. So why set up another one at the Maze to compete with them?

  • PN

    Especially since Northern Ireland has precisely nothing to teach anybody about conflict resolution.

  • Why not build something Futuristic ….. Showing what can Be with Guidance from Media and ITProfessionals …… Servering Enterprising Capitalists.

    A Fitting Monument to Past Troubles are Infinite Future Possibilities.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Yeah,what a great way to ‘move forward’……………shakes head in utter bewilderment,and goes to fridge for yet ANOTHER ice cold,pear cider . 🙁

  • Granni Trixie

    Noone I have asked (and I include politicans) can answer me the question: why is closing a deal on the use of the Maze site dependant on the so called Conflict . Resolution Centre materialising ? SF are the only party it seems who want it.So why do all the others not agree to develop site but say no to the Centre?

    We do not need hindsight to see that we will live to regret allowing space to glorify the Hungerstrikers etc.

    eg A leaflet for the “Irish Republican History Museum” in Conway Mill states that it exists to promote the history of the Rep sturggle for Irish freedom and “to educate so that our youth may understand why Republicans fought died and spent many years in prison for their beliefs”.
    Expect more of same from the Maze site.

    Also wonder what the ‘real’ conflict research centre in UU has to say about this development. An economic argument could be made against the Maze Centre as duplication.

  • Hard hat

    Why not say no? Why pretend we ever had a choice? SF and UK government signed up to this some time ago. Thankfully the football and rugby communities managed to get disentangled from the cover plot. Regardless of that, it’s not rocket science that national stadia should be within natural reach of their capital cities, no matter how big the bribe to believe otherwise.

  • TheHorse

    The fact is Trixie that a sizeable section of our community would like a resoloution centre built at long kesh and yes people will see the history of the hunger strike and the history of the past conflict. It is a reminder of the depths human beings will go to achieve their objectives and that includes the British government.

  • GavBelfast

    Another load of devolutionist rubbish.

    When are people going to demand more from what we have here at present than just a virtual absence of terror?

    How bad must the UUP/SDLP be to be being marginalised from SF/DUP mediocrity like this?

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ‘It is a reminder of the depths human beings will go to achieve their objectives’

    Objective — blowing up a furniture store — dismal failure
    Objective — united Ireland — dismal failure
    Objective — dying pointlessly for republicanism — success
    Objective — getting your very own suicide shrine 30 years later — looking good

  • TheHorse

    Gerry lvs Castro I think everyone with a bit of sense knows what direction this country is heading except for people like you who refuse to aknowledge the role played by the British Government and loyalists. You forgot to mention the innocent people murdered by the British government, have you forgotten Bloody Sunday already or the dozens murdered by the Mount Vernon UVF who were controlled and directed by RUC Special Branch – allowed to murder at will, not to mention the many deaths caused by British agents within republicanism that could have been stopped, but in the interests of the British Government, were sacrificed for them to achieve what they wanted. Do you believe we should all just forget about that.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Nothing like veering off on your own special little tangent Horse.

    ‘I think everyone with a bit of sense knows what direction this country is heading’ — indeed, it’s heading for decades more UK membership until a majority in NI vote otherwise. Based on every poll available, I wouldn’t book the street parties for a while yet.

    ‘except for people like you who refuse to aknowledge the role played by the British Government and loyalists.’

    The British govt did some nasty stuff Horse — no arguments there, even though in stark body count terms they fell well short of the RM’s ‘achievements.’
    The loyalists were a bunch of clueless thugs about as much use as tits on a nun. If collusion had actually worked, the majority of the provos and their political stooges could have been taken out overnight. What transpired was a grand total of 13 republican terrorists killed by loyalists — in other words a complete bollocks. Their modus operandi was in virtually all cases to target a random catholic or in some cases a random prod.

    Sure there was a lot of murky goings on from all sides during the ‘troubles’ — what pisses me off is the continual SF whining as if ‘their’ side were the only ones to suffer.

    Throw up Bloody Sunday, Loughgall, Finucane whatever — you’ll just have Bloody Friday, La Mon, Enniskillen et al thrown back. And don’t give me all that crap about ‘state forces’ — the provos set themselves up as protectors of the catholic community, soldiers of Ireland and the rightful govt of the 32 counties — they murdered hundreds of civilians, most avoidably, and famously killed more of their own community than the brits & loyalists combined.

    Now we’re heading for another round of tedious squabbling over what’s going to be said/written/commemerated in the ‘conflict resolution centre’ — another immense pile of bollocks as nothing will actually be resolved. But perhaps that’s the whole point.

    SF seem to think that having failed to bomb and shoot Unionists into a UI, they’ll somehow manage it by pissing them off. Good luck with that one.

  • Paul

    Why not give SF carte blanche to set up their “Conflict Centre” with their own “narrative”?

    If there’s enough discontent with that “narrative” then a parallel centre and narrative could be set up. Leave it to the tourists to come to their own conclusions about the reality.

    Sold correctly, EU and gullible Irish America will cough up the funds to keep a legion of builders, maintenance workers, community reps, tour guides in meaningful employment- our greatest revenge will be the laughter of our bank managers and investment advisors.

  • medillen

    If only Margaret Ritchie had announced it, you would have creamed your pants. Where is she anyway?

  • Munsterview


    We cannot change the past, it is fact, it is also history.

    We can learn from history but to do so we must first be aware of the facts of it, stark and unpleasant as that may be. If those in authority had learned anything useful from Long Kesh, then there would not be a current dirty protest underway.

    When Terence MCSweeney died on hunger strike and the word spread the English poplar opinion followed the Government line of the day…… actions of a madman etc. History and the world now has passed a different verdict in that. However one has only to read one of the articles in a Brit mainstream newspaper castigating Cameron’ s Indian apology for the atrocities of the British Empire to appreciate how little has changed in some quarters!

    One interesting footnote to McSweeneys death; an Asian hotel dishwasher stood by his sink in a London hotel and cried into his hands, he appreciated the significance of the moment……. he said
    ” while a nation holds such men as these, that nation cannot be broken ”

    The mentality of The West towards democracy was a lesson not lost on that man. I remembered both him and McSweeney as I listened on world service radio the night his black clad legions renamed the newly liberated largest city in the freed southern part of his country in his honor.

    It is ever since called Ho Chi Mein !

  • TheHorse

    Gerry lvs Castro these are the key words – “It is a reminder of the depths human beings will go to achieve their objectives and that includes the British government”. You have already admitted all those involved in the past conflict murdered people and no amount of trivialising their activities can chage that, nor can you change the fact that one section of our community refused to share power and accept as equals another section of our community which ultimately led to all the deaths that occured. I am not saying we must keep looking back but we certainly must never let it happen again and everyone should be able to see for themselves the depths to which human beings will go to achieve their aims and the depths to which human beings will go to stop them.

  • personally I am in favour of razing the thing to the ground and turning the area into a wild life sanctuary, even if they have to ‘import the wildlife’…

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ‘You have already admitted all those involved in the past conflict murdered people and no amount of trivialising their activities can chage that’

    Horse this may come as a shock but the term conflict pre-supposes killing on both sides. In the case of this particular conflict, more killings were carried out by Republican paramilitaries than by any other group. Unless you want to count terrorists who inadvertently blew themselves up, not one single death was justified or indeed achieved anything.

    ‘nor can you change the fact that one section of our community refused to share power and accept as equals another section of our community which ultimately led to all the deaths that occured.’

    Perhaps you weren’t around during the troubles or simply haven’t read your NI history Horse, but I’ve more shocks in store here. Bernadette Devlin memorably described the protestant working class prior to the troubles as ‘tuppence halfpenny looking down on tuppence’ — in other words the prods were marginally better off — no more than that.

    Worth mentioning that the Catholic population of NI grew steadily throughout the last century (30% to 46%) whilst the Protestant population of the Republic virtually disappeared (10% to 3%). That’s a debate all of it’s own, but the pre 1965 situation in NI certainly didn’t justify a 30 year murder campaign.

    Some things did need to be reformed, hence the civil rights movement of the late 60s which aimed to secure equal rights for all within the context of Northern Ireland. All their demands had been met by the early 70s, yet the provos stepped up their murder campaign, which had merely jumped on the CRM bandwagon as a further attempt to violently achieve a united Ireland. Their murder campaign from at the very least 1973 onwards was entirely based on ‘Brits out’ — no other reason.

    As for power sharing, it’s conveniently forgotten that the provos were as much opposed to sunningdale as was hardline Unionism. The irony is that 26 years on, power(such as it is) is being shared by the very same provos and hardline Unionists.

    ‘I am not saying we must keep looking back’ — tough break there as SF in particular are determined to keep looking back as long as it doesn’t involve any of the numerous skeletons in their closet. It really is all they’re capable of doing.