Belfast Telegraph

Campaign for maze museum steps up
Ex-republican prisoners meet to support plan

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By David Gordon
03 August 2004

The campaign for a Maze prison museum was being stepped up today at a public meeting being held in west Belfast.

The Conway Mill event, part of the Feile an Phobail programme, was organised by Coiste - a welfare group for former republican prisoners.

Scheduled speakers included Gerard Corsane, a former director of South Africa's Robben Island museum, which depicts the history of the infamous jail where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

Coiste has drawn up detailed proposals for a museum at the now disused Maze site, incorporating part of the old H-blocks complex, the prison hospital and a section of the former internment compounds.

It envisages a museum forming part of a campus for conflict resolution, which would also include a peace park and an educational centre.

Laurence McKeown, from Coiste, said: "Today's meeting is an opportunity to promote the campaign, when there are a lot of people about during the Feile."

The future of the 360-acre Maze site is currently being examined by a consultative panel set up by Government.

It is seen as a front runner for a national sports stadium development, but the size of the landholding means a number of uses could be included in any future blueprint.

Strong objections to a prison museum have been voiced by unionists, who allege it would become a shrine to republican hunger strikers.

Coiste rejects this argument, and says groups such as ex-prison officers and former loyalist inmates also have a stake in the location.

The Department of the Environment has been assessing the case for listing some of the prison buildings, due to their historical significance.

Other speakers due to address today's public meeting included Mairtín O'Muilleoir, who sits on the consultative panel examining the Maze's future, Louise Purbrick of the University of Brighton, and Coiste director Mike Ritchie.

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