Page last updated at 10:01 GMT, Monday, 29 June 2009 11:01 UK

Wilson considers Maze delisting

Maze prison
More than 350,000 has been spent on maintaining buildings

The Environment Minister, Sammy Wilson, has asked officials to consider if he could revoke the listed building status of structures at the old Maze prison.

The former jail's hospital and part of the H-blocks are currently listed.

Mr Wilson told the assembly he has asked the NI Environment Agency to carry out "a further review of the listing and potential for delisting."

Sinn Fein's Paul Butler described the move as "mere publicity seeking" by the minister.

Mr Butler had asked why a review was taking place given that the structures meet the requirements of the law regarding listed buildings.

Mr Wilson agreed that the decision to list structures at the Maze was taken only after a detailed examination of the architectural and historic significance of the site and buildings had been carried out.

However, he said "as a result of previous concerns expressed on this issue" he has asked the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to "carry out a further review of the listing and potential for delisting on this site."

Bluster

He continued: "I believe it is appropriate that the concerns expressed by the public and some members of this Assembly, subsequent to the protection of these structures by the agency, are seen to have been considered seriously."

Some unionists are unhappy about the listing of the Maze structures, believing they have the potential to become a "shrine" to republican hunger strikers who died in the jail in 1981.

Republicans argue the jail is an important part of Irish history and would like the site to become a conflict transformation centre.

Mr Butler said there was little chance delisting will happen.

"The reality is that Mr Wilson's predecessor as Environment Minister had already requested and received that same advice," he said.

"It is worth noting that Sammy is running against the Office of the First and deputy First Minister, who actually own the site, and therefore his own party leader, who on the 8th April 2009 recognised the historic significance of this site."

TUV leader Jim Allister described Mr Wilson's comments on delisting as "nothing but bluster."

"Two consecutive DUP Environment Ministers have stood over the questionable decision and therefore given the proponents of the Maze ammunition to fight any moves to reverse it," he said.

A development corporation is to be set up to look at what to do with the former jail site after Sports Minister Gregory Campbell decided not to build a multi-sports stadium there earlier this year.

More than £350,000 has been spent maintaining the listed buildings on the site of the former Maze prison over the last four years.

The high-security prison, built to house paramilitary prisoners during the Troubles, was closed in 2000.



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SEE ALSO
Maintaining Maze costing 500,000
11 May 09 |  Northern Ireland
Review into future of Maze site
08 Apr 09 |  Northern Ireland
Work begins on Maze prison site
30 Oct 06 |  Northern Ireland
The prison that served its time
27 Jul 00 |  Northern Ireland


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