Demolition of Prison Wall marks another chapter in history of jail
Sinn Féin MLA Paul Butler said today's start to the demolition of the prison wall marks another chapter in the history of Long Kesh. Coming as it does after the historic breakthrough last Monday at Stormont today begins the process of integrating our past with the future.
Mr Butler said:
"We must bring the history of Long Kesh with us into the future and learn the lessons of never allowing this to happen ever again. Sinn Fein welcomes today's start to demolition and the plans for the future of the former Long Kesh prison.
"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 said Paul Butler. 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.
"Long Kesh 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.
The proposals for the former prison have the potential to bring about significant long term social and economic benefits to the whole of the community. In particular they offer the chance to provide new social and economic opportunities for both communities.
"Today opens 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