Council votes against Long Kesh museum

Proposals to retain part of the Long Kesh prison site as a museum have been set back after the local council voted against the plan.

The future of the historical 360-acre site outside Lisburn, has been hotly debated for years.

Republicans have long called for at least one of the prison's H-blocks and the medical unit, where the hunger-strikers of 1981 died, be incorporated and suitably commemorated in any development of the site.

Sinn Fein councillors Paul Butler and Veronica Willis were the only members to vote against the recommendation. Two SDLP councillors abstained at the vote on Thursday night.

Mr Butler said that the meeting had been called to discuss the future of the site.

``There was a report from the chief executive that the council should back the proposal for an international sporting stadium and not support the museum,'' he said.

``We believe there should not have been any recommendations put forward by council officers because the consultation period is still ongoing.

``Republicans don't have confidence that the council is trying to promote equality and we are going to raise this with the local government ombudsman. The consultation process should be allowed to take its course.''

Under the British government's Re-investment and Reform Initiative, some of the north's security bases and installations are being transferred to the still-suspended Six-County Executive.

Crumlin Road prison in north Belfast, Ebrington Barracks in Derry, Magherafelt Barracks in Co Derry, and Windsor Park Barracks in Belfast are also included in the scheme.

Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly has called for the site of Crumlin Road prison to be ``renovated and developed to the benefit of the whole community''.

Mr Kelly said Sinn Fein's view was that the community should be serviced and that job creation and reconciliation are key concepts in the future layout of any plans.

``However, further uses are not limited and could include a youth hostel, conference facilities and a museum for example.''

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© 2003 Irish Republican News