Long Kesh stadium in doubt
Long Kesh stadium in doubt

The DUP’s Gregory Campbell indicated this week that plans to build a multi-sports stadium at the site of the Long Kesh prison have been scrapped.

Mr Campbell told the Stormont Assembly on Monday that representatives from soccer, rugby and Gaelic games had been asked to identify a preferred alternative location for the stadium.

The future of a proposed international conflict transformation centre to be based in the remaining prison buildings remains unclear. The centre is supported by Sinn Féin, but opposed by the DUP who fear it would focus on the prisoners’ campaign for recognition of political status, including the 1981 hunger strike.

Sections of Long Kesh prison have already been listed for protection, including one of its iconic H-blocks and the prison hospital where hunger strikers including Bobby Sands died.

While there have been calls for the entire Long Kesh site to be preserved, Sinn Féin has said it will block any plans to build a stadium away from the site.

Despite a statement by the irish Football Association (IFA) effectively abandoning the plan, Barry McElduff said the construction of the multi-sports stadium must continue to maintain the support of Gaelic sports, soccer and rugby bodies.

“In order to do so it needs to be clear that the DUP have the capacity to move on this issue,” he said.

He described the statement by the IFA stating that they believe the Long Kesh stadium to be dead as “unfortunate”.

“Gregory Campbell needs to be decisive on this project and deliver the leadership as Minister that will receive and boost the confidence of all the sporting bodies that have signed up for the Stadium.

“The DUP’s constant politicking and procrastination on this issue is leading to some of those who have endorsed the project re-evaluating their position.

“If such a great opportunity, not just for local sports, but for the creation of countless jobs in construction and service provision at the stadium is lost the blame will lie firmly at the door of Gregory Campbell.”


Meanwhile, artists at an exhibition being held in the former prison have accused the Stormont government of “total State censorship” after several art works were removed following objections by staff of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

‘Deconstructing the Maze/Long Kesh’, which opened on Friday, is the first visual arts exhibition to be held inside the former prison.

The drawings removed from the art exhibition included sketches of suggested designs for the conflict transformation centre.

Artist Dara McGrath said that OFMDFM staff had threatened to shut down the exhibition only hours before a preview show unless the architectural drawings, models and books were handed over. The items were then placed in a storage room in an area which was supervised by security staff.

McGrath said that the exhibits and books were of a non-political nature, but were removed by OFMDFM staff because they had not been submitted to the Ministers’ offices for approval, unlike the other art works at the show.

“I was astounded by the amount of censorship at this exhibition”, said McGrath, whose photographs and video installations were displayed at the Maze last night. “Artistic freedom is out the door because the Executive is so over-sensitive. They know the Maze is a powder keg and they don’t want it to blow up in their faces.”

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© 2008 Irish Republican News