I waited in vain to read the response of those closer to the action than I to the idea of a “conflict transformation centre” at the Maze, this time mixed in with the Balmoral show. It would surely have been easier to bracket the idea with a cross community stadium but that has gone. While I’m the last to encourage another bout of easy cynicism, I really do wonder how it’ll play, to bracket the stout yeomen of Dervock with the aristocracy of paramilitary remembrance on each side of the divide. Do the Show (memorably addressed by Tony Blair in 1997) and the RUAS really need to move from their own rather magnificent set of buildings? And what will “conflict transformation” look like? If it’s as neutral as a chapel of rest at airports or some kitsch bits of statuary, it might be tolerable if redundant, but I doubt if any of the lobbies would stand for that.
If the recast Ulster Museum offers any guide , more likely are separate virtual montages for each set of paramilitaries and prison officers along with appropriate clothing and artefacts (batons and smuggled-in guns), and an online repository of information on the Troubles you don’t have to go to the outer reaches of Co Antrim to access. The imagination races ahead to dirty protest and escape “experiences” for the kids, the movie Hunger on a long loop and a commentary by Gerry Kelly.
I suppose the best argument is that the land is going free (isn’t it?). I fearfully wait for elucidation from FMDFM. Perhaps they’ll surprise us with a raft of orginal ideas that neither wallows in mawkish remembrance nor anaesthetises the horrors and somehow serves both sides and none.
Why not commemeorate the New Age with an International Ploughing Match to clear away the entire site? (There. I just knew somebody would be cynical).
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London