Minister David Hansen with
Lisburn Councillors and Maze Panel members Edwin
Poots, Peter D'Hagan, Jim Dillon and Paul Butler as
the Maze wall is about to be demolished.
AS the walls of the Maze Prison were reduced
to rubble this week, Social Development Minister David Hanson
has again repeated the government's commitment to bringing a
National Stadium to the site.
Speaking as the bulldozers got to work, the
Minister said: "Last Monday a political wall came down, bringing
with it a new start to life in Northern Ireland with a new
Assembly and power sharing Executive.
"Today we are taking down a physical wall
that will open the way to an iconic development that will also
be shared by all the people here."
Mr Hanson reiterated the government's
commitment to bringing a National Stadium to the site and said
that opposition from Belfast would not alter that.
"We have always been very clear that Belfast
can make its plan but the government assessed the potential for
a sports stadium and regeneration and this is the best site for
the regeneration to take place," he said. "I am confident the
new Executive will take forward the plans and make them a
Hanson also said he was 'unconvinced' opposition from Northern
Ireland football fans was united.
"The views of Northern Ireland football
supporters are important but I do not believe they are
I am confident the main parties in the new
Executive will want progression on this site," he added.
Mr Hanson added that although he would be
leaving his Ministerial post here, he would be following the
progress at the Maze with great interest. "I will be keeping a
close eye on progress," he said. "I will take a very strong
interest and I hope the Executive will see it through."
Maze escape tunnel is unearthed
WORKMEN who have been razing the Maze site
have unearthed one of the prison's long-held secrets.
As demolition began this week, they uncovered
an abandoned tunnel, which had apparently been dug by
paramilitary prisoners over thirty years ago as a planned escape
However, it is believed the 60 Foot tunnel
was abandoned as the prison's infamous H-Blocks sprang up and it
remained undiscovered by prison authorities until this week. The
first clue that an escape tunnel may be uncovered came when
workers Found bags of dirt hidden in the roofs of Nissen huts
and the outer walls of toilet blocks. The crew quickly
discovered where the dirt came from when a digger fell into the
It has been estimated that the tunnel was dug
in 1975, after a fire in October 1974 destroyed many of the
Nissen Huts and before the first H-blocks were opened in 1976.
Welcome for the start of demolition
THE Chair and Vice Chair of the Maze
Monitoring Panel, Lisburn councillors Edwin Poots and Paul
Butler, have welcomed the start of the prison's demolition.
Mr. Poots said this demonstrated 'the
momentum that the Maze/Long Kesh proposals have gathered' and
represented 'a major stage in the preparation for development of
the site', which would "benefit growth in the region.
"Today marks the first stage in the removal
of the prison wall, which so many of us have seen for decades as
we pass along the M1. I look forward to a new skyline as we work
to complete the task to transform this place," he added.
Mr. Butler added: "The demolition of the
cages, and now the prison wall, is an important step in the
delivery of the Masterplan vision of economic and social
regeneration agreed by the main political parties.
"The proposed future use of the massive land
area now being exposed - up to 360 acres - is an exciting
"The proposed projects for the new
multi-sports stadium and International Centre for Conflict
Transformation are of huge significance. "