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Tuesday, March 30, 1999 Published at 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK


UK

Sports centre could replace Maze prison

The Maze: New site could include children's nature walk

Local residents near the high-security Maze prison want transform it when it closes next year by building a community centre and sports field on its grounds.

The jail will close its gates for the last time next July when the last of its paramilitary inmates are freed early. This deal is part of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Search for Peace
A request to give a residents' group 12 of the prison's surrounding 350 acres will be made to security minister Adam Ingram on Tuesday.

Local Ulster Democrat councillor David Adams, who is representing the group, said: "Local people have put up with a lot over the years with a large prison on their doorstep, including the mass escape of 38 prisoners in 1983. They deserve something back."

A use for the prison buildings has not yet been decided, but the land it stands on could be sold off for private development.


[ image: One of the prison's infamous H blocks]
One of the prison's infamous H blocks
Mr Adams said the group has 65,000 to build a community centre, plus support from local churches and businesses.

If the government gives them the land, they could apply to the International Fund for Ireland and the European Peace Fund, he said.

"We'd like football pitches, tennis courts and a children's nature walk.

"We also feel this would act as a buffer zone between the surrounding rural area and any housing or other development that might go on the Maze site."

Difficulties to resolve

This news comes amid intense talks between political leaders to try and resolve the difficulties surrounding last year's Good Friday Agreement.

The talks are aimed at reaching an agreement on the critical issue of paramilitary arms decommissioning.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Northern Ireland Assembly's executive must be set up by the end of this week to take over powers from Whitehall.


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