Daily Ireland

Heritage bosses decide to award Long Kesh listed-building status

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The Department of the Environment has decided to award listed-building status to a number of structures at the old Long Kesh prison site in Co Down, Daily Ireland can reveal.
In a letter to Lisburn City Council, obtained by this newspaper, heritage chiefs said they “accept” proposals for statutory protection of parts of the site.
The Long Kesh buildings that will benefit from listed status include block H6, the hospital, the administration building, watchtowers, the chapel and some fencing and boundary walls. A protected relocated compound will also be set up, comprising the best surviving components from the various prison huts.
Any new development at the 360-acre (146-hectare) Long Kesh site, including the recently-mooted multisports stadium, will now have to incorporate all these imposing features of three decades of prison life.
Lisburn City Council will meet later today to discuss the listed-buildings proposals. It is expected to unanimously endorse the department’s decision to award protected status to many of the prison structures.
Lisburn Sinn Féin councillor Paul Butler described the department’s judgment as a “step in the right direction”.
He said, “Long Kesh is on a standing with other historical jails such as Robben Island in South Africa where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and Kilmainham Jail, where the leaders of the 1916 Rising were executed. Long Kesh will always be remembered as the place where Bobby Sands and nine other hunger strikers died because they refused to be criminalised.
“The importance that Long Kesh has had in the history of the conflict here has obviously formed a large part of the survey the DoE carried out on the buildings at the former prison. Long Kesh remains the ideal place to give future generations an understanding of the historical significance of the jail.”
Lisburn Mayor Cecil Calvert, a Democratic Unionist Party councillor, said he could live with the listed building proposals.
“I’m not necessarily in favour of keeping the H-blocks or watchtowers, but I have to look at the bigger picture. The consultation group came up with a number of proposals for the site, including the development of a stadium and keeping some of the buildings. I support the entire package because of the economic benefits it will bring to Lisburn, although I am not in favour of all of the content.”
SDLP councillor Patricia Lewsley said, “I fully support the plans. I expect the listed-building proposals will go through the council tonight without a hitch.”
Long Kesh hit the headlines last week when plans were submitted to transform the site into a £1 billion (€1.46 billion) multi-sports stadium for soccer, rugby and Gaelic games.
However, the future of any stadium on the former prison remains in doubt because the Gaelic Athletic Association has yet to endorse the proposal.
During its 30-year history, Long Kesh bore witness to some of the most dramatic events of the Troubles.
When special status was withdrawn from political prisoners in 1976, republicans began a blanket protest in a bid to gain political status.
That protest eventually culminated in the 1981 hunger strike and the deaths of ten republican prisoners.
In September 1983, almost 40 republican prisoners escaped from the H-blocks, the biggest escape in history from a British-run prison.

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