Protester's make their voice heard outside the site of the old Maze prison as Jim Allister speaks to the large crowd gathered. Picture Mark Marlow/Pacemaker press.
Willie Frasier, Jim Allister and Tom Elliott. Picture Mark Marlow/pacemaker.
VICTIMS campaigners have said the success of last Thursday night's rally at the site of the former Maze prison, is a clear indication of the strength of opposition that exists over the proposed retention of the hospital building at the site.
Several hundred people took part in the protest to stop the former hospital complex being included in the regeneration of the Maze site. The protest is part of a wider campaign, the objective of which is the demolition of the prison building.
Victims campaigner William Frazer stressed that the protest was not against development at the Maze but rather about the retention of the hospital and H Blocks.
"We want to make it clear that we are not against the redevelopment of the Maze and in fact we welcome the project itself but the hospital wing was asked to be kept by Sinn Fein/ IRA so that they could glorify the 'hunger strikers," said Mr Frazer. "People in Lisburn have been fortunate in not having to witness the glorification of murderers like this in their area, but we see it on a regular basis and all we are trying to stop is mass glorification at a shrine within a Unionist community. Our next step will be a public meeting in Lisburn. People have been told one side of the story let us tell you the other side of it."
Mr Frazer was critical of the police handling of the protest last
week and expressed concern
that police had, he alleged, tried to prevent people from attending.
"Clearly police had been instructed to curtail the numbers of people taking part in the Maze rally. The questions have to be asked and answered - who gave that instruction to police and why was it given," he said.
The PSNI did everything possible to stop people getting M the protest. What police did simply antagonised people and made them more determined to get to the rally. It is clear the authorities and our political leaders are intent on demonising victims whilst at the same time facilitating the demands of the IRA terrorists who made us victims.
It is patently clear the PSNI did everything in their power to prevent people getting to the protest location at the Maze," continued Mr Frazer. "A number of buses carrying people and bandsmen were diverted away from the protest site. Roads were blocked or cordoned off by police. Numerous people, including some with disabilities, were forced to park their cars and walk considerable distances to get to the protest location.
"Some people who had been injured in terrorist actions were unable to walk to the protest and had to return home. Other car drivers were either told the rally was over or had been cancelled. There have also been reports of PSNI officers acting aggressively towards individuals trying to get to the Maze rally. There has been one specific report which alleges PSNI officers cooperated with residents of a particular housing estate to stop protesters parking in the area."
However, the police have categorically denied that any attempt was made to interfere with the rally. A spokesperson said: "Police put in place an appropriate and proportionate operation at the Maze. Officers met with both organisers and residents prior to the event to ensure adequate traffic management and public safety measures were in place.
Police absolutely refute any suggestion that officers prevented individuals from attending the event or in any way interfered with the gathering.
"Senior officers are prepared to meet with anyone who feels they have been unfairly treated. Anyone who wishes to make a complaint about the conduct of any officer should contact the police Ombudsman," she added.