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Sinn Féin to respond to launch of Long Kesh proposals

30 May, 2006

Sinn Féin representatives on the Long Kesh/Maze consultation panel Paul Butler and Raymond McCartney today attended the launch of the proposals for the site by the British Direct Rule Minister David Hansen.

Speaking to those assembled Cllr. Butler said:

“Sinn Fein welcomes the publication of this plan for the future of the former Long Kesh prison. This report follows on from the recommendations of the Maze/Long Kesh Consultation Panel which was endorsed by Sinn Fein and the other main political parties on how best the site could be developed.

“Sinn Fein’s primary concern has been to see the preservation of part of the Long Kesh site because of its historical importance not just to republicans but to the wider community as well. We are pleased to see that the prison hospital, where ten republican prisoners died on hunger strike, an H Block, a cage and other prison buildings, which make up the listed prison buildings, will be central to the proposal for an International Centre for Conflict Transformation.

“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.

“ We will study the proposals carefully and give our considered response in due course.

“We recognise that these proposals have the potential to bring about significant long term social and economic benefits to the whole of the community. In particular this report if implemented offers the chance to provide new social and economic opportunities for the nearby deprived communities of Old Warren, Twinbrook Seymour Hill Poleglass Knockmore and Lagmore.

“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

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