On 15th August 2013, then-First Minister Peter Robinson stopped the development of the Maze-Long Kesh site in its tracks in a letter to DUP members, plunging the relationships at the top of the NI Executive into peril once more.
The 347-acre site of the former Maze Prison was boasted to host a £300m Peace and Reconciliation Centre, and up to 5,000 jobs.
In halting the proposed redevelopment, Mr Robinson said ‘it would be wrong to proceed with the Maze peace centre in the absence of a consensus about how it will operate’.
Since that decision by the DUP leader, any development of the site has been unceremoniously stopped and in October 2013 EU funding for the project was pulled and the £18.1m Stormont funding was divvied out between other projects, seemingly spelling the end of any movement on the site outside Lisburn.
Responding to questions in the Assembly at the time relating to the impasse, the Deputy First Minister commented that ‘No further development will take place until this is satisfactorily resolved’, and Sinn Fein firmly dug its heels in about what they deemed to be a breach of a commitment in the Programme for Government.
However, BtP can now reveal that the Maze-Long Kesh Development Corporation, which was tasked by OFMDFM to regenerate the site, is still up and running.
The Corporation, which does not even have a permanent website, and who issued their last press release in June 2013, had 15 staff prior to the DUP’s decision, and now has just over seven full time equivalent staff.
However, if indeed the DUP blocked any development on the site, and SF stuck to its position that no development would take place until the row was resolved, why have the Corporation been spending well over a million pounds on the site every year since?
In 2013-14, the Corporation spent £1.34 million, plus £363,000 on capital expenditure. The year after, £1.31 million was spent, with £480,000 spent on capital works. Spending up until December sat at £899,000, with capital spending at £281k, well on its way to equalling the previous years’ expenditure.
Even if we were to take salaries and running costs into consideration, it is obvious that other major expenses are being incurred at the site, despite the protestations of both the largest parties to the contrary.