Maze stadium plans in doubt

Tuesday 27 May 2008 17.27
Maze prison site  - Plans for a stadium on the site are in doubt
Maze prison site - Plans for a stadium on the site are in doubt

Money earmarked for the Maze stadium could be redirected to other projects, the Northern Finance Minister has warned.

A total of £70m has been set aside but could be devoted to another multi-sports venue should a business plan be accepted, Peter Robinson added.

Mr Robinson's assessment of the financial implications of the ground for football, rugby and Gaelic games is to be considered by the Executive.

He said: ‘I don't believe that we identified any particular project in terms of the budget application so it is available for the Maze project if that is what the Executive was to decide to proceed with.

‘Equally, it would be available for other stadia should a business case for them be passed by the Executive.’

Alternatives to the former high security prison site, near Lisburn in Co Antrim, include upgrading existing sports grounds and building on land in Belfast.

There has been political discord over the project, with unionists concerned that plans for a conflict transformation centre could create a shrine to the Troubles.

A total of ten republicans died in the Maze/Long Kesh in 1981 following hunger strikes protesting for the right to political status.

Earlier proposals from the Maze Consultation Panel suggested keeping one of the famous H-Blocks and the prison hospital where the inmates died.

A paper circulated among Executive colleagues by Mr Robinson has suggested that the government faces escalating costs if the Maze plan is adopted, with more than treble the original estimate likely to be spent.

Up to £379m is the anticipated cost, according to the Department of Finance.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has disputed how the figure was arrived at.

The Ulster Unionist Party has called for a Maze Development Corporation similar to that at Laganside in Belfast bringing together expertise and local representatives.

A decision is due by the end of this month.

Sinn Féin has previously said it will not support the venue unless it is on the site of the former Maze Prison.

Belfast has been campaigning for the facility to be built within its boundaries.