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Sinn Féin voice concern over stadium plans

23 April, 2007

Sinn Féin Lagan Valley MLA, Cllr Paul Butler and Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney have said talk of plans to build a stadium at the former Long Kesh prison site cannot proceed unless there is agreement on opening up the preserved part of the jail to the public.

Mr Butler said:

Sinn Fein will not agree to plans to build any stadium until we get agreement to open up the jail as a visitor attraction with an iconic building built to the highest international standards."

Mr Butler and Mr McCartney also rejected proposals to build any stadium at Belfast.

Mr Butler added:

"In all of the debate about stadiums in Belfast the GAA has been ignored and treated as if they do not exist. Sinn Fein will not back any plans for a stadium in Belfast."

Paul Butler and Raymond McCartney who sit on the Maze Long Kesh Monitoring Group, which oversees the development of the former prison, have said they have been concerned that the focus is only on building a stadium.

Mr Butler, who is vice chair of the group, said:

"No stadium can be built without agreement on developing the prison buildings as a visitor attraction similar to Kilmainham Jail in Dublin and Robben Island in South Africa. Both the stadium and the preserved prison buildings projects must proceed simultaneously."

Mr McCartney added:

"Sinn Fein and the DUP need to agree both proposals or else plans for a stadium will not proceed. There has been much debate recently over the proposals to have a stadium located at Long Kesh. However, what has to be pointed out in all of this is that this site is of huge historical importance in the conflict here over the last 30 years.

"The reality is that Long Kesh is unique in terms of international prison history and it has the strongest community links of any prison in the world. It is essential therefore that part of the jail be preserved. Those in support of the stadium at Long Kesh should also support the setting up a conflict resolution campus and visitor's centre. We want to see these proposals being given as equal an importance as any plans to have a stadium built there." ENDS

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