Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have jointly praised plans for the redevelopment of the 347-acre Maze-Long Kesh prison site near Lisburn, Co. Antrim into a Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre. The plans include a business campus for renewable technology and life sciences linked to the universities.
Maze Prison, also known as the H-Blocks, housed numerous republican and loyalist paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles and is most remembered as the site of the 1981 hunger strikes in which ten republican prisoners died, starting with Bobby Sands.
Since the closing of the prison in 2000, following the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, debates had been ongoing over what to do with the site. Even now that the plans have been approved, controversy still persists.
Some loyalists express concern that the site, fully funded with an £18 million European Union grant, will become a “shrine to terrorism” that would highlight the struggle of Northern Irish nationalists given its association with the hunger strikes, according to the Irish Times.
Daniel Libeskind, the New York-based modern architect who will design the Peace Centre building, is also responsible for the master plan for New York’s 9/11 Memorial and Berlin’s Jewish Museum. He said that the building must have a dominant communal aspect, calling it “a hope-filled common ground.”
In a joint statement, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Robinson and Deputy First Minister McGuinness hailed the project as “one of the biggest development opportunities anywhere in Northern Ireland.” McGuinness added, “the new centre will send out a powerful signal to the international community that we are building a better, brighter and shared future together.”