[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 25 February, 2005, 14:12 GMT
Stadium proposal for former jail
How the Maze site could look under the new proposals
How the Maze site could look under the new proposals
A world-class sports stadium has been recommended for the site of the former Maze prison in County Antrim.

The Maze Consultation Panel has also proposed a national arts centre and centre for conflict transformation on the 360-acre site near Lisburn.

The cross-party body revealed its recommendations following two years of debate. The government will consider it before making a final decision.

The 55m stadium plan will see a 30,000 seat arena for soccer, rugby and GAA.

If the development goes ahead, the panel believes it could lead to 1bn of public and private investment.

The panel's report is supported by all its members, including the four main political parties.

Panel chairman David Campbell said: "We now have the real prospect, as the prime minister said on commissioning our work, of literally turning swords into ploughshares and providing a beacon of hope for Northern Ireland and beyond.

"We strongly recommend that the government gives a firm commitment to the early development of all of the elements of our agreed proposals through a coherent masterplan."

Plans for the Maze site include retaining one of the H-blocks
One of the notorious H-blocks would be retained if the plan goes ahead

As well as a stadium, the report also proposes an International Centre for Conflict Transformation built on another part of the site.

This would involve the retention of the prison hospital where republican hunger strikers died, and one of the H-blocks, as well as other buildings including the administration block.

It is proposed the centre would have links to Harvard and Boston Universities in America.

The proposals also include an international equestrian centre and showgrounds.

It is thought the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society wants to move from its current home at Balmoral where it stages an annual show.

The proposals also envisage a zone for industrial development.

Coca Cola has been linked to the Maze site, as facilities would include bars, restaurants and a hotel.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble welcomed the panel's report.

"The panel's recommendation will provide over 1bn of much-needed investment into the site and will turn it into a tremendous signal of positivity for Northern Ireland," he said.

Plan includes a new 55m multi-sports stadium
Plan includes a new 55m multi-sports stadium

Sinn Fein assembly member Raymond McCartney, a former IRA hunger striker, welcomed the retention of one of the H-blocks and commended the advisory panel on its work.

He added: "There is still a lot to be done to achieve the recommendations in the report. Key to this will be the commitment of the British Government to resourcing the recommendations."

Edwin Poots, a Democratic Unionist panel member, played down the significance of retaining part of the prison.

"At the outset Sinn Fein were looking for a museum, there's no museum here. If they ever want to get one, they will have to ask unionists to support it, so we have a veto over that."

SDLP assembly member Patricia Lewsley urged great care in the handling of the International Centre for Conflict Resolution.

"We must be able to reassure victims that it will not be a shrine to paramilitarism or an instrument of retrospective justification for violence," she said.

The Maze has been one of three locations short-listed for the site of the stadium.

The others have been the North Foreshore of Belfast Lough and the Titanic Quarter in east Belfast.

Last month, Sports Minister Angela Smith said no decision would be taken until a detailed economic appraisal and business case had been completed.


SEE ALSO:
Maze could become leisure mecca
23 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
Three contenders for NI stadium
20 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland
NI stadium 'needs support'
24 May 04 |  Northern Ireland
Multi-sport stadium on horizon
18 May 04 |  Northern Ireland


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific