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Maze Prison Site

Volume 463: debated on Wednesday 25 July 2007

The future of the Maze prison site is now the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive. To date, they have not sought discussions with me on the matter, but of course I would be happy to meet them to discuss it further if they wish.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his appointment and thank him for that reply. The estimated cost of building a national stadium at the Long Kesh Maze site is between £43 million and £400 million. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House a definitive figure, to the extent that he is able to do so, after taking account of all contingency and additional costs?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks.

The matter is now devolved and it is for the Executive in Northern Ireland, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it. Suffice it to say that it is under review; the Executive are looking at a business case and I understand that they will bring it back in the autumn.

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. He will be aware that the people of Northern Ireland are pleased that the question of the future of the Maze is now in the hands of the Northern Ireland Assembly, but will he make sure that every piece of information relating to the stadium is put into the public domain so that people such as Northern Ireland football supporters do not have to go to freedom of information legislation to obtain information about various aspects of the process that seem to have been kept very secret? Will he assure the Minister for Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland that every bit of information will be put into the public domain?

The Secretary of State will be well aware of the almost total opposition of Northern Ireland football supporters to the siting of the stadium at the Maze. He will also be aware of the total opposition of Unionists to the provision of a shrine to hunger strikers at the Maze—something that is already happening, promoted by Sinn Fein. Will he give an assurance that no agreements made in the past by direct rule Ministers or actions taken by direct rule Ministers in the future will limit the ability of the Executive and the Assembly in Northern Ireland to be the final arbiters of what happens to the Maze site and the location of the national stadium?

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that, of course, this is now a matter for the Executive—the final decision will be theirs—but I remind him that when direct rule Ministers looked at the issue, it was the subject of enormous consultation and that the decision was endorsed by all three major sporting bodies—those for soccer, rugby and Gaelic football? However, these are now matters for the Executive.

In respect of the hon. Gentleman’s observations about what some have described as a terrorist shrine, there is no question of its being a terrorist shrine and, frankly, to suggest that it is, as I think that he knows, denigrates the work done by the Maze consultation panel. It came up with proposals and a way forward on all this, and it would be best to remember the words of the Deputy First Minister, who said yesterday:

“I am not arguing for any kind of shrine…If we want a conflict transformation centre, then it has to concentrate on how we resolve conflict.”