Maze centre would “dishonour” former comrades: UDR group

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Former members of the Ulster Defence Regiment have said the proposed ‘peace centre’ at the Maze prison site would “dishonour” their comrades who made the supreme sacrifice.

The Regimental Association of the UDR is the latest in a growing number of organisations opposing a conflict transformation centre based around a retained H-block and other preserved buildings.

In a letter printed in today’s News Letter, the association has called for the plans to be scrapped as the centre will be “hijacked by Sinn Fein and become a shrine to the IRA hunger strikers”.

The body claims this will happen “in spite of how it is presented, or dressed up, or political spin used”.

“We can not and will not endorse a shrine to the IRA/Sinn Fein. It would be doing a great dishonour to those of our comrades in the Ulster Defence Regiment who made the supreme sacrifice for the preservation of decency and democracy,” the letter said.

Almost 200 members of the regiment were killed during the Troubles - the majority while off-duty - and a further 60 murdered after leaving.

Despite the mounting opposition, ex-UDR man Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP — the main unionist party still in favour of the plan — said this week: “I am not going to stand over anything that would glorify the actions of the IRA in any sense whatsoever.”

Meanwhile, the RUC Widows’ Association has also called for a halt to the plans.

Rejecting the proposal to retain the old prison’s former hospital wing and H-block, Danna Cochrane of the association said the scheme was a way of “glorifying people who took RUC men’s lives”.

Speaking on the BBC’s The View programme on Thursday evening, Ms Cochrane said it would difficult to find the middle ground on the emotive issue, “especially on a site like the Maze which is controversial in itself”.

The widows’ plea was directed at the First Minister Peter Robinson who has consistently defended the project.