THE Chairman of the Ulster Unionist Councillor’s Association, Cookstown Cllr Trevor Wilson, has welcomed the DUP’s U-turn on the party’s proposals to build a controversial ‘peace centre’ at the site of the former Maze prison.
The Cookstown councillor said the DUP’s decision, announced in Peter Robinson’s now infamous ‘letter from America’ is a massive U-turn by the party, and one which will be welcomed by many people and organisations, not least victims of IRA terrorism.
Democratic Unionists performed a dramatic U-turn and withdrew their support for the contentious peace centre at a former paramilitary prison. Mr Robinson had previously backed the Maze prison project, despite pleas from unionist political rivals, the Orange Order and victims’ groups it could turn into a shrine to terrorism.
“The Ulster Unionist Party will make no apology for applying pressure to the DUP to bring about this U-turn, and I fully endorse the comments of my party Leader Mike Nesbitt that we are committed to ensuring a fairer, honest way forward for innocent victims,” said Cllr Wilson.
He said he noted with interest that the DUP allegedly ‘stalled’ the process due to a lack of consensus within the unionist community.
“It would be utterly shameful if the DUP were to use this as a cynical ploy to tide them through to next May’s European and local council elections, and to then give the go-ahead to the terrorist shrine once the voters had been duped,” he said.
And he added: “This is precisely what happened before. In July 2006 the then DUP Leader Ian Paisley said that Sinn Fein were unfit for government and it would be “over our dead bodies will they ever get there” - yet less than a year later, conveniently after an Assembly election, that is exactly what happened. The DUP will not be able to get away with that trick twice.”
Around 25,000 republican and loyalist prisoners were held in Long Kesh/H-Blocks. And thousands of prison officers and British soldiers were also based there. Some of the buildings on the site have been preserved as a location of historical importance.
Meanwhile, a Cookstown teenager also hit out recently at the plans to transform the Maze into a peace centre.
Danielle Hamilton from Lissan Road said: “To have a place where terrorists are glorified and where murderers are put on a pedestal as if to be worshipped, that is totally wrong, that is my opinion.”