THERE has been a mixed unionist reaction to Minister Alex Attwood’s decision on Thursday morning to approve planning permission for a PeaceBuilding and Conflict Resolution Centre on the old Maze prison site.
MP for the area Jeffrey Donaldson said it would not be a “shrine to terrorists”.
However, TUV leader Jim Allister said the building would become an “IRA Mecca”.
Lagan Valley DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told the BBC Nolan radio show on Thursday morning: “There will be no story telling in the retained buildings whatsoever.
“There will be no tour guides, there will be simply a factual account of what the prison building was.
“There will be no narrative that is about glorifying terrorism, that is about the deaths of individual prisoners.”
And he added that there would be no mention of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands on the audio tour.
However, TUV leader Jim Allister accused the DUP of a “shameful betrayal of victims” of IRA violence.
“If, as the DUP now claim, they will veto any glorification of terrorism at the so-called “Conflict Transformation Centre” why did they not see to it that the Centre was built on a greenfield site rather than one which will be forever linked to IRA hero and convicted terrorist Bobby Sands?
“Whatever Jeffrey Donaldson and other DUP representatives claim former Hunger Striker and Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney has stated that: “The listed and retained buildings…will be open to the public. There will be the opportunity for the many stories of the gaol to be told.”
“And then of course we have the comments of the DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds – which he has never retracted – “However it is dressed up, whatever spin is deployed, the preservation of a section of the H-Blocks – including the hospital wing – would become a shrine to the terrorists who committed suicide in the Maze in the 1980s. That would be obnoxious to the vast majority of people and is something unionist people cannot accept.”
“The spin which the DUP are now engaged in fools no one. This morning Mr Donaldson even tried to claim that there would be no mention of Bobby Sands during tours of the site! What utter nonsense!
“Today marks another milestone on the road to a shameful betrayal of victims by the DUP at the Maze. It will promote to the world a distorted view of Northern Ireland’s history which glorifies the terrorists who were confined within its walls,” added Mr Allister.
Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was killed by the IRA, tweeted: “Personally I won’t visit/use Maze centre but that is my choice.
“I feel alienated. We live in a democracy everybody and free to make up own mind.’’