Victims’ group calls for Maze rethink

Kenny Donaldson
Kenny Donaldson

A VICTIMS’ group in Fermanagh has reissued a call for elected representatives to think carefully about proposals for the former Maze prison site.

Responding to news that the DUP is now backing the development of a peace and reconciliation centre, the Lisnaskea-based South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) said politicians must “revisit their consciences”.

On BBC’s The View programme broadcast on Thursday night, Edwin Poots confirmed that the DUP would support a conflict transformation centre – containing information on the role of the Prison Service and Army guards at the site as well as the prisoners.

The proposal, previously rejected by Mr Poots’ party, has been vehemently opposed by many unionists and victims’ groups who claim it will become a “shrine to the IRA”.

The DUP’s change of heart has prompted SEFF’s Kenny Donaldson to appeal for those with influence to listen to the victims of terrorism.

“I have yet to meet someone who is an innocent victim of terrorism who supports the development of a conflict transformation facility at the former Maze prison site, nor the retention and investment in the old hospital wing and other prison buildings,” he said.

Mr Donaldson said the centre would provide a means for “terrorists and their apologists to glorify and justify ‘armed struggle’ against the British state,” and added: “Why do people insist on pushing forward with a project which has absolutely no support from the very constituency of people who bore the brunt of the terrorist onslaught in our country?

“The former Maze prison site may be located in the Lagan Valley constituency but the symbolism of that site – which housed some of the most heinous serial killers this country and the Republic of Ireland ever produced – means that this is an issue for the entire country and particularly those families whose loved ones perished at the hands of terrorists.

“They should not be steamrolled as is currently the case.”

Last week, TUV leader Jim Allister and former UUP chief Tom Elliott accused the DUP of “hypocrisy and rolling over yet again to republican demands” after Mr Poots’ announcement.

Describing the plan as “a shrine to hunger strikers at the Maze – as already outlined by Sinn Fein” – Mr Allister said: “It is blindingly obvious that the Maze site will become a place of republican pilgrimage, an IRA mecca in the heart of an overwhelmingly unionist constituency.”

However, Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP dismissed criticism of his party’s stance, saying “there will be no shrine” at the Maze.The Lagan Valley MP said: “The listed and retained buildings make up a tiny fraction of the total development site.

“The conflict transformation centre will be an entirely new build, separate from the retained and listed buildings.”