Ex-prisoners set forth plans for prison museum
Ex-prisoners set forth plans for prison museum

Former republican prisoners have put forward their proposals for the former prison site of Long Kesh prison.

Among the proposals from prisoners' group Coiste na nIarchimi are an interactive museum and a park dedicated to peace.

Other proposals included a centre for conflict resolution and administrative buildings for the north/south and east/west bodies set up under the Good Friday Agreement.

Coiste chairman Raymond McCartney likened a potential H-block museum to Robben Island in South Africa.

Sinn Féin Lisburn councillor Paul Butler, who spent 15 years in the H-blocks, has spearheaded Sinn Féin's role in the campaign.

"The Red Cross has said that Long Kesh had the strongest community links of any prison in the world," he said.

"Over the years there were 25,000 prisoners and 15,000 staff. We believe at least 200,000 people were directly affected by Long Kesh. Places like this are very important."

Mr Butler said he understood why some people opposed the proposals.

"Long Kesh arose out of the conflict here and there was a lot of hurt caused but this is a way to turn something that was bad for everyone into something positive," he said.

He called for one H-block, a compound (or cage) and the prison hospital to be preserved and for ex-loyalist inmates and former prison staff to be included in the project.

"There is a monument inside the prison to the 29 prison officers who died as a result of the conflict. We believe that should be kept. We want to keep even the bits we don't like," he said.

Addressing those at the launch, Dr Louise Purbrick from the Faculty of Arts and Architecture at the University of Brighton said: "Long Kesh is a place where many different histories intersect.

"People around the world watched events unfold there. It had a significance far beyond Northern Ireland.

"I can't believe anyone here has any doubts that it needs to be preserved."

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© 2004 Irish Republican News