Welcome to the Maze!!

Owen Bowcott has the details of the plans for the redevelopment of the Maze (aka Long Kesh) Prison site announced by David Hanson yesterday:

The 360-acre development, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, is scheduled to include a 42,000-seat sports stadium, a multi-screen cinema, an upmarket hotel, restaurants, an indoor equestrian centre, an “international centre for conflict transformation” and, possibly, an ice rink.

But the final decision to go for what in effect will be a Lisburn based plan over a rival (and more modest) Belfast plan for a new sports stadium is not likely to be made for another 18 months.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • eranu

    “plan for a new sports stadium is not likely to be made for another 18 months.”

    sounds like a real issue the assembly could argue about for a change? hopefully sense will be seen and it will be built in belfast in a central location, just like the other sucessful stadiums around the world. forget about the government having agreed to give the RA their prison cell war memorial and let business go ahead with a sensible idea in belfast city.

    pleeeeeease dont screw it up folks …..

  • I have a suspicion that like education reforms, any executive formed would, unfortunately, have no say in the matter.

    The opportunity for feel-good self-congratulation amongst the NIO/DCAL/SIB is much too great to be risked in the name of what actually makes sense for the sports.

  • James D

    Sign the petition here:


  • GavBelfast

    What a waste!

    Imagine Croke was being moved to the Wicklow Mountains and Lansdowne rebuilt but in Donabate.

    The South saw sense over Abbotstown.

    But sure we are expected to take what we’re given – for whatever reason – shut up an be grateful.

    What a waste ….

  • Occasional Commentator

    Looking at the plans …

    a 42,000-seat sports stadium,

    The stadium should be in Belfast.

    a multi-screen cinema,

    Do we not have enough damn cinemas? If there was the demand there’d be a cinema there already. Are there really that many people would would take in a film after watching a sporting event?

    an upmarket hotel,

    Upmarket my arse. It’ll just be one from a world wide chain of hotels (expensive but rubbish). And anyway, any tourist/business-person would either stay in Belfast or out in the sticks, not beside a stadium and a damn cinema.


    See above about the cinema and hotel.

    an indoor equestrian centre,

    This is an interesting idea (well at least it’s more original than flats, shops and cinemas and so on) but I don’t see how it fits into the rest of the plan.

    an “international centre for conflict transformation”

    This idea seems to creating more conflict, not transforming it!

    and, possibly, an ice rink.

    This is starting to sound more like the Odyssey in Belfast or something like it. They should demolish the Odyssey, but the stadium in its place, and put the nonsense like ice-rinks and cinemas as far away from me as possible.

  • nev

    Good to see the two biggest supported sports in Northern Ireland backing the the new stadium.

    The GAA & the Ulster Branch of the IRFU obviously have their own sporting organisations at heart, i.e their insistance that both Ravenhill & Casement Park will continue to play a part in the provinces sporting calender, but at least they are prepared to try and facilitate and support a new venue where all the sporting organisations can use for big occasions, and hopefully bring a bit more interaction between the different codes.

    As a rugby fan i look forward to the ever growing Ulster rugby fan base filling the new stadium and winning the Heinekin cup in our own province.

    The football crowd need to leave their politics at home.

    The Maze is only up the road (or down the road), the sooner its built the better.

  • GavBelfast

    Nev, a predictably selfish and pompous response there – Ravenhill and Casement Park (and indeed the new Lansdowne and Croke Park) will still be key to rugby and Gaelic. There you have it.

    Football will be stuck with the Maze and the Maze alone with nothing to fall back on.

    Why are people like you so arrogant as to think an out of town stadium will work here when they tend to fail everywhere else (hence why urban or sub urban stadia are the popular norm).

    Your jibe about politics is spurious – that is probably at the back of a lot of peoples minds, and they’re not all football fans by any means, but is a red herring – the location and then the size are the main objections for most people.

    Like I said, what a waste …. for sport, tourism, the city centre (and this won’t benefit Lisburn centre either), the casual supporter, people who want to ake a day/night/weekend of it, and just about everything else.

  • nev


    Real supporters make their own fun , we’ve been doing it at Ravenhill for years.

    Ulster rugby supporters travel from all over the province to support our team at home games, Lisburn is as accessable as Belfast for most supporters.

    The problem seems to be that the football supporting crowd in Northern Ireland (all 10k of them) seem to think that the country stops on the edge of Belfast.

    The pompous attitude is coming from the minority (Northern Ireland football supporters), who think they have the right to decide that our new stadium should be in Belfast.

    Many within the rugby fraternity (including everyone i know) are delighted to have a 42k stadium where we can take the big games too, when required.


    I’m a Unionist, and proud of it, but i leave my political opinions at home during sporting occasions, Perhaps foootball supporters of the Northern Ireland football team need to do the same.

    Ulster Rugby is now supported by all sections of the community in Northern Ireland, and you know what, its f**king brilliant (sorry for the expletive), the football supporting community seem unable to drag itself from the sectarianism of the past, even with your ‘forward thinking’ chief exec., Howard Wells, who deserves a medal for trying to change the mindset of the support.

    The majority of sports supporters (in both communities) support the new stadium, let’s make it happen

  • Concerned Loyalist

    No hunger strike memorial in Lisburn, and that is what the Maze redevolopment would amount to… dead men like Sands, Doherty and the rest of the republican criminals are people we want our children to forget, not triumphalise…

  • BogExile

    I’ve walked those cursed corridors and the best thing ever to happen to the place is that it be completely razed to the ground. And I mean completely, verifiably, unconditionally. Leaving the hospital wing and an H block as a centre for ‘conflict transformation’ (a moral abortion of a construct surely made in Connolly House) is akin to operating on cancer and deliberately leaving a bit of tumour in to help the patient remember his illness.

    Thundering feet of Ulster Rugby and GAA over this soulless graveyard is the only transformation required.

  • iluvni


    Where is this massive groundswell of opinion in favour of the Maze stadium?
    I’ve heard precious little support for it from anyone at Ravenhill….but what would I know having missed only a couple fo Ulster games in 15 years.

    Guess what too, Nev, I’ve missed 1 NI home game in 25 years and attend Irish League matches regularly too.

    Get off your high horse about NI fans politics being the source of objections, you pompous get.
    There’s a myriad of practical reasons why a stadium in the arsehole of nowhere will be a white elephant.

  • “The football crowd need to leave their politics at home”

    Care to expand on that one further?
    Most of the objections to the Maze site seem to me to be on purely practical grounds.

    Also, whilst I believe the Ulster GAA and Ulster Rugby authorities have given it some semblance of support, where is your proof that:

    “The majority of sports supporters (in both communities) support the new stadium, let’s make it happen”.

    Have you seen some kind of relevant survey proving this, or are you engaging in a bit of unsubstantiated spin here(You’re not Howard wells in disguise ny any chance??!)?

  • GavBelfast

    Nev doesn’t care to expand ….

  • nev


    I took a wonder through your discussion site, our wee country, i think it’s called.

    Is it a football site or a political site ??

    Very little football being talked about by fans, its all politics, or rather one side of politics.

    While other sporting organisations try to move forward and show the hand of friendship to their sporting neighbours, the neanderthals within the football supporting fraternity continue to live in the past.

    ‘Stand up for the backwoodsmen’

    Goodbye and best of luck in the past.

  • GAA Fan

    I’m a GAA man to the core with little interest in soccer or rugby. I’m horrified at the thought of a stadium being built out in the middle of nowhere. The plans are to surround it with all sorts of leisure and retail developments. In other words, they’re going to build a new town around this thing. Why go to the expense of building a new town when there are plenty of towns already in place? The stadium should be built in Belfast or Derry where people can easily get at it without necessarily having to drive. City streets are a lot more vibrant and interesting than a barren retail ‘park’ will ever be. As for the GAA, all roads will continue to lead to Clones for major Ulster Football Championship matches (unless it’s Armagh v Tyrone in which case only Croke Park can handle the demand) and Casement will be the epicentre of hurling (unless the clowns in New York get their own way).

  • clones traffic jam

    “I’m horrified at the thought of a stadium being built out in the middle of nowhere.”

    It would be a hell of a lot handier than spending 2 hours trying to get out of Clones.

    Motorways, train links, good facilities.


  • Nev
    I’m sorry but you haven’t answered my original question.

    As far as I can see, the main objection to the Maze site from “the neanderthals within the football supporting fraternity” would appear to be non-political and indeed have been basically outlined by GAA Man above.

    Also I note you provided no evidence to your previous claim:

    “The majority of sports supporters (in both communities) support the new stadium, let’s make it happen”

    This sentence also confused me:

    “While other sporting organisations try to move forward and show the hand of friendship to their sporting neighbours”

    The IFA IS the sporting organisation representing football in NI and IS in favour of the move to the Maze. I thought you were in favour of this move??

  • DK

    Why do people say it is in the middle of nowhere? You can see it from the motorway. It would count as in the city anywhere else, but we have to drive 20 minutes down the road and suddenly it’s as if its on another planet! If people are prepared to drive to junction 1, then they’ll drive to the maze.

  • iluvni

    Nev appears to have the same in-depth appreciation as to the real objections to the Maze farce as the majority of the local media unfortunately.

    Are you sure you arent Dunseith, Nev?

  • james

    I think the Maze complex is an excellent idea.

    Great road links, state of the art facilities & close to the main poulation centre.

    The plans look hugely impressive and it will rival many other venues for facilities & modern design.

    Its 20 mins from Belfast and with the good road links, will be easily accessable form all over the province.

  • GAA Fan

    It IS in the middle of nowhere. It’s not within a town or city, it is in the rural countryside, AKA the ‘middle of nowhere.’

    All this talk about ‘convenient links’ to the motorway are short-sighted. It’s not accessible by foot or by rail, so the only option will be to drive. It’ll end up another soulless, sprawling, out-of-town monstrosity with long lines of vehicles sitting there spewing out their fumes for hours on end. It’ll be like Sprucefield at the height of xmas shopping.

    Sure Clones might be a tad difficult to get into on match days, but once you do get in the atmosphere is terrific, cafes and restaurants are plentiful, and local family-owned businesses make a killing.

    A stadium inside Belfast would be a lot easier to get to since driving wouldn’t be the only way of getting there.

  • tony

    “A stadium inside Belfast would be a lot easier to get to since driving wouldn’t be the only way of getting there.”

    I was discussing this topic today in work with a few GAA colleagues, none of the guys from Armagh, Tyrone or Derry have ever taken the train to Belfast for a big game in Casement Park, in fact they reckon that 99% per cent travel by road, so the rail link into Belfast is irrelevent.

  • GAA Fan

    Casement isn’t anywhere near a train station. A new stadium could be. Furthermore, people that live in the city nearby would not have to drive.

  • tony

    “people that live in the city nearby would not have to drive.”

    Antrim don’t have a big support in comparison to other counties in Ulster so it would not make much of a difference.

    There’s no trains from Omagh or Strabane, not much use to Tyrone fans.No trains from Fermanagh, no trains from Monaghan,no trains from Cavan.

    If you are coming from Donegal by train, do you have to drive to Dublin first ?

  • GAA Fan

    You seem to be missing the point. The proposed new stadium would be used by GAA, soccer, and rugby fans. GAA fans are more spread out in rural areas – fair enough, a lot of them are going to have to drive. But there are plenty of people within Belfast and within striking distance of train stations in the north who would be able to get to use the railways to get to a new stadium if it had a train station. People in Derry, Coleraine, Ballymena, Lisburn, Lurgan, Portadown, Newry etc. This would be a decent sized catchment area for people who follow any of the three codes.

  • tony

    There is going to be a new train station at the Maze.

    To be honest the whole rail thing is a bit of a red herring, the vast majority of fans from all sports travel by road because it’s just as handy.

  • GavBelfast

    I’ll say it again, what a waste ….

  • GAA Fan

    Ever been to Manchester? Old Trafford football ground has its own railway stop. They have to put on special trains to cope with the demand. Standing room only in those things.

    Ever been to the All-Ireland? I’ve always preferred to travel by train, and a good lot of fans do as well. Special trains have to be put on when there’s two northern teams playing football in Croke Park.

    What the ‘vast majority’ of fans do isn’t really the issue. 200 fans on a train probably doesn’t sound like much, but 150 fewer cars on the road makes a big difference on match day.

    And my point still stands about the atmosphere being better in a town or city on match day than in a glorified retail park in the middle of nowhere.

  • Realist

    “I took a wonder through your discussion site, our wee country, i think it’s called.

    Is it a football site or a political site ??

    Very little football being talked about by fans, its all politics, or rather one side of politics”


    I’d like to correct you on several scores, if I may.

    The OWC site is a Northern Ireland fans site, not the Northern Ireland fans site.

    It’s “Current Affairs” section (a concept seen on many sporting fans boards) is restricted to “patrons” of the site posting in it, and is strictly moderated.

    Posters from both communities have some very reasoned debate on there, not just about the politics of Northern Ireland.

    The total posts in the Current Affairs forum represent less than 2% of the total posts on the Board. This is a lot less than many other sporting discussion boards.

    So, in summary:

    It’s a football site, with a restricted forum for political discussion.

    The discussion is largely about football issues.

    The political discussion is not all one sided.

    Please get your facts right and do not misrepresent Northern Ireland fans generally and the OWC site in particular.

    PS: Howard Wells has had very little to do with “changing ther mindset” of Northern Ireland fans.

    Again, that’s something you may care to research before espousing rubbish on the matter.