Massive Maze redevelopment to cost €117m
AN estimated €117m is to be invested in the redevelopment of a site including a prison which once held IRA hunger strikers.
The man in charge insisted today the massive construction project near Lisburn in Northern Ireland was about more than just the controversial history of the Maze/Long Kesh.
Some unionists have called for the H block cells and hospital where republican hunger strikers like Bobby Sands died to be flattened over fears the buildings could become a shrine to their memory.
Chairman of the corporation behind the development Terence Brannigan said: "There are people out there writing their own script, everybody seems to have a version of what is happening.
"There is not a script at this moment in time written, most people are misinformed."
He said proposals were still being considered by Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers.
Organisers of the development hope for £100 million - €117m - investment in the site by 2016. The first sod is due to be cut this autumn for a new conflict reconciliation centre, with work due to be complete two years later.
The £100 million is a mixture of private and public sector money and includes spending on the development of the road network, the establishment of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Show, money from Europe for the reconciliation centre and potential Heritage Lottery funds.
Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness defended the peace centre plans.
He said: "This building will only be a shrine to peace."
He said First Minister Peter Robinson and he had decided to build it with European and Heritage Lottery money.
"We are going to agree what is going to be in it," he promised.
"People will be proud of the way in which we, in a very sensitive fashion, recognise that we have to do this in a way that respects everybody.
"This is going to be an inclusive site for everybody, recognising the way in which everybody contributed, whether negatively or positively, to what happened on this site."
Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson said the former H block and associated buildings represented only 8% of the 347 acre site.
"I rather suspect the people who are making the noise today will be very silent when they see the fantastic outcome that we will have in a few years time," he predicted.
He dismissed any suggestion the team spearheading the development, including a former police assistant chief constable, were conspiring to build a shrine to terrorism.
"It is so absurd that the men in white coats should lead some people off," he said.