Sinn Féin members this morning met with the British Direct Rule Minister David Hansen as part of the Maze/Long Kesh Monitoring Group. Sinn Féin presented the British Minister with our proposals for the future use of the retained prison buildings at the site.
Speaking afterwards at a press conference in Belfast attended by former POW Jennifer McCann, Sinn Féin Lagan Valley representative and Vice Chair of the Monitoring Group Cllr. Paul Butler said:
"There has already been agreement that a section of the former prison including the hospital block where the ten republican Hunger Strikers died will be retained for use as an International Centre for Conflict Transformation.
"This morning as part of the wider delegation we met with the British Direct Rule Minister David Hansen on the overall project. We took this opportunity to present to him a document detailing our proposals for the future use of the former prison buildings.
"The history of this site has many sides and is populated by republicans, loyalists, prison wardens, British soldiers and politicians, Prime Ministers and Taosigh. It is a place associated with the conflict here over the last 30 years and it mirrored and informed the development of the conflict outside these walls.
It housed perhaps 25,000 republican and loyalist prisoners.
15,000 prison officers worked there.
The families of all these 40,000 people were intimately bound up with the place.
200,000 people (or 1 in 8 of the population of the 6 counties) would have a strong connection with the site.
"The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has visited political prisons across the globe, said that Long Kesh prison had the strongest community links of any prison in the world.
"Long Kesh is a unique example of international prison history. It was both an icon and a microcosm of the conflict. It is a contested space; it has contested histories and contested policies. However, it now provides us with a huge opportunity to bring about a major physical expression of the ongoing transformation from conflict to peace.
"Much work has still to be done on how we can bring about the vision we have for this site.
"The opportunity now exists to open a new chapter on this site. That chapter will hopefully be an entirely different one to that which has gone before. For our part Sinn Fein wants to see and help bring about a new beginning to this site whereby all of the community can reap the benefit of." ENDS