On the eve of the release of 78 prisoners from the Maze Prison in Belfast, Sharon Ní Bheoláin takes a look back at the history of the Maze Prison. The prisoners were being released under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement.

The Maze Prison, originally called Long Kesh, has a legacy as a place of protest, hunger strike, murder and death. The prison began as a prisoner of war camp on an old RAF airfield. Thousands of republicans and many loyalists were interred between its walls without trial during the early years of the Northern Ireland conflict. The H-Block structures were opened on the site in 1974.

Former republican prisoner Brendan MacFarlane describes the "grey" life within the prison.

The Maze was the the setting for much prisoner protest ranging from attempted escapes, riots and hunger strike. In 1981 Bobby Sands became the first prisoner to die after 66 days on hunger strike. Nine more republicans followed Bobby Sands.

Over the years there were several high profile escapes. 38 republican prisoners escaped in a prison catering van in 1983. The escape was organised by Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly.

The Maze Prison has always been central to the peace process.

This report also includes footage of Margaret Thatcher commenting on the political status of the Maze prisoners.

The Maze Prison closed on 29 September 2000.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 27 July 2000. The reporter is Sharon Ní Bheoláin.