Troubles holding centre bulldozed

Bulldozers are moving onto the holding centre

Demolition work on Castlereagh holding centre in east Belfast has begun.

Thousands of republican and loyalist paramilitaries were questioned at the site during the Troubles, which closed in December 1999.

Superintendent Gordon Reid said policing had changed dramatically since it was built.

"When the demolition work is completed, the site will be converted into a car park area to service the Castlereagh police complex," he said.

A state-of-the-art custody suite in Antrim is now the designated facility for questioning paramilitary suspects.

The centre had been at the centre of controversy over claims of police ill-treatment, and its closure was one of the recommendations of the Patten Commission into policing in Northern Ireland.

Allegations which led to Castlereagh's reputation for ill-treatment first surfaced in the 1970s at a time when republican violence was at its peak.

In one three-year period around this time, more than 3,000 people were charged with terrorist offences based largely on confessions obtained at Castlereagh.

Reports by Amnesty International accused the Royal Ulster Constabulary, precursor of the PSNI, of ill-treatment of prisoners at the site.

Sinn Fein MLA Michael Ferguson said the demolition was "symbolic and welcome", but "not a substitute for an acceptable and accountable policing service".

"The Special Branch who operated the centre still exist. The cells and the interrogation rooms have moved to another site," he said.

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