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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 08:20 GMT 09:20 UK
Maze 'ideal' for new police centre
The Maze held NI's most notorious paramilitaries
The Maze held NI's most notorious paramilitaries
New police recruits could be trained on the site of the former Maze prison in County Antrim.

The proposal to move police training to a new college on the site near Lisburn was made by the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

At a meeting on Wednesday, board members considered key criteria for such a college and agreed the extensive site at the former prison fulfilled all the requirements.

The prison, which held many of the province's most notorious paramilitaries during the Troubles, closed in September 2000.

Professor Desmond Rea
Board chairman Desmond Rea: "The board believes the Maze site would be ideal"

It was shut as a result of the Good Friday Agreement peace accord's early prisoner release scheme.

The Patten report on police reform recommended the PSNI should have a new purpose built college which would provide a training facility of world class standard.

Commenting on the proposals, Board Chairman Professor Desmond Rea said: "Despite some refurbishment, the Garnerville site offers a poor facility for police training and we have been working with the PSNI to find a suitable alternative.

Central location

"The difficulty has been finding a location which fulfils the numerous requirements of a new police college.

"The board believes the Maze site would be ideal and could be developed as a training facility of world class standard.

"This view is fully endorsed by the acting Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn and the recently appointed Chief Constable Hugh Orde."

Chairman of the Police Federation Irwin Montgomery said at the moment, police training was scattered between Garnerville, Londonderry and Fermanagh.


It would be insensitive to some and insulting to many that this area is proposed to be used for a training ground for a new police force when really what we need is a new police service

Micheal Ferguson Sinn Fein
He said he did not really care where the new facility was placed but said the Maze would be ideal.

"Geographically it is outside Belfast which means that travelling to it is much easier and there is easy communication from all directions," he said.

"As long as the government provide the money to replace our present one, and it is relatively centrally located, I am not bothered where they build it as long as they do it."

Lisburn council has asked to be kept informed of any decision.

"We in Lisburn council were thinking of a national sports centre for there," said former Ulster Unionist mayor Jim Dillon.

Museum

However, Sinn Fein councillor Micheal Ferguson, who is a former Maze inmate, is opposed to the plan.

"It would be insensitive to some and insulting to many that this area is proposed to be used for a training ground for a new police force when really what we need is a new police service," he said.

"Personally I think it should be retained as a museum to remember that we lived in a state where there were no democratic or civil liberties and as a symbol to ensure that we move into a society where we can guarantee democratic and civil liberties for everybody."

The decision of the board and the views of the acting chief constable and new chief constable will now be passed to the Northern Secretary of State.

The Chancellor has said money raised by the sale of the Maze will be given to the assembly for the benefit of the community.

See also:

27 Jul 00 | N Ireland
04 May 02 | N Ireland
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