Victims oppose Euro funding for Maze site

TWO victims' groups have hit out after it emerged that government has applied for £20m of European funding to develop the former prison buildings at the Maze.

A development corporation was set up in September to decide what to do with the site.

There are several options which include the relocation of the Balmoral Show and establishing a peace facility in the remaining buildings on the site where some of Northern Ireland's most infamous killers were once housed.

However two victims group have said they were "aghast" to discover that an application has been submitted to the EU for funding to establish a conflict transformation centre in the disputed buildings.

A core part of the proposal is the maintenance, preservation and future development of the former H-Blocks and hospital wing.

Director of Lisnaskea-based victims' group South East Fermanagh Foundation Kenny Donaldson has expressed his opposition to the plan.

"In recent weeks we have had OFMDFM's bosses announce that funding was being sought to develop a CTF at that site, so OFMDFM have presided over the non-delivery of a National Sports stadium but are now backing the development of a Conflict Transformation Facility/shrine to terrorism at that site.

"I, along with many from throughout the Northern Ireland community, am aghast at this turn of events.

"The vast majority of our society whether nationalist, unionist or otherwise are not opposed to the creation of a Peace Building Centre, which seeks to educate and inform the generations of today and tomorrow as to the folly of terrorism.

"What people have a problem with is; the building of such a centre on a site synonymous with evil and criminality."

The group Justice for Innocent Victims of Terrorism has also spoken out

"The former Maze Prison site will never be considered a neutral location for the innocent victims of terrorism," a spokesman said.

"In principle, we are not opposed to there being a peace centre developed in Northern Ireland, which genuinely examines the consequences terrorism has upon a society but we will not consent to such a centre being built at a location synonymous with Republican resistance and terrorism against our state."

The groups have set up a petition opposing the siting of the centre at the former prison.

An OFMDFM spokesperson responded to the criticism.

"It was publicly announced on the 29 July 2010 that the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister would submit an EU funding application for a Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Facility on the MLK site," he said.

"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.

"The setting up of a development corporation for the strategically important Maze/Long Kesh site will ensure the full economic potential of the site is realised.

"The site represents a unique opportunity to help revive our economic output in these difficult times."