Long Kesh/The Maze: a shrine to terrorism?

So – the Long Kesh/Maze site will very probably get the go-ahead this morning. A long time coming maybe, but better late than never. 
There were two politicians on BBC Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster this morning disputing the whole idea. You might think that, as the BBC is to balance what that guy who walked the tightrope between the Twin Towers was to death-defying,  one of those politicians would have been unionist and the other nationalist/republican. Wrong, I’m afraid. They were both unionist  – Tom Elliot (UUP) and Jeffrey Donaldson (DUP) – and they couldn’t have disagreed more. 
Tom said the site would be a shrine to terrorism and it was all the DUP’s fault, so it was (btw, have you noticed how Tom pronounces ‘h’ as in ‘H-blocks’?); Jeffrey said that Tom’s party were the ones that signed up to the deal in the first place and what’s more, Noel Thompson was lying in the way he was presenting the project. Bang, wallop, thump, and all you’re left with is the feeling that the UUP and the DUP have some way to go before they find unity in their political thinking and Noel Thompson must be hoping he can meet Jeffrey up a dark alley some night soon. 
The justification for the site’s development, as presented by Jeffrey, was that there’d be loads of other stuff too – the Royal Ulster Agrticultural Society, a WW2 aircraft hangar – loads of stuff that would kinda diminish the impact of that pesky H-block and hospital area where the hunger strikers died. Sorry, Jeffrey. They won’t. Whatever they say, people coming to visit the site will have one central matter in mind – the hunger strikers. 
Will it be a shrine to terrorism or a peace and reconciliation centre, showing us a better way for the future? I think Tom’s nearer to the truth on this one than Jeffrey. It may not be a shrine to terrorism – we don’t remember the hunger strikers for what they did before they were sent to prison and embarked on their fast – but it will be a place where those visiting will be reminded of the matchless courage of ten men who decided that they’d rather die than be classified as common criminals. The woman laid to rest yesterday out-stared all ten men until they died, but in doing so unleashed world-wide sympathy for the dead men and gave birth to a new and powerful force in Irish politics, a force that continues to grow. 
Whatever the pressures that squeezed the DUP into going along with the development of Long Kesh, they must have been formidable, for given a choice, 99% of unionism would follow David Ervine’s advice and flatten everything on the site. It might be possible to kid yourself that Ulster-Scots provides a balance to the Irish language, but  there just isn’t anything to provide a balance to the sacrifice of these ten men. The Long Kesh development, like Kilmainham Jail, will jolt visitors into awareness of the courage and selflessness of those who died there. 

12 Responses to Long Kesh/The Maze: a shrine to terrorism?

  1. Anonymous April 18, 2013 at 8:44 am #

    Indeed Jude, and that's precisel why it should not be built.

    I'm afraid Jim Allister is right about this one. This will be an opportunity to reinforce the republican narrative, portraying the perpetrators as victims and using emotion to persuade visitors to sympathise with the terrorists.

    The real story won't get a look in.

  2. Anonymous April 18, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Subject to correction,I have the impression that there is a substantial amount of European funding which may evaporate unless quick decisions are made.This may explain the sudden burst of activity.

  3. Colman April 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    Disagree with you again, Jude…and please refrain from saying 'we' when you really mean YOU.

    Because I DO remember what the Hunger Strikers did before they were caught. Francis Hughes was a legend, openly living in the growth and fighting British forces.
    The people of Twinbrook haven't forgotten Bobby Sands community involvement.
    Proud communities across the island turn out to commemorate the Hunger Strikers yearly and are educated about the kind of Irishmen they were, and what they endured that made them choose a military path to end British Rule.
    No doubt, those who visit the site will be moved by the horror of the Hunger Strike and what the dead men were prepared to suffer for their beliefs.
    As they take their leave, will visitors consider the irony of how former colleagues of the Hunger Strikers now support the imprisonment of Irish Republicans still opposed to British Rule, the policemen who arrest them, the non jury courts that sentence them, and the warders who berate, beat and strip search them? There's your 'Consistency' again.
    It is entirely possible that inquiring minds are opened to read alternative perspectives of that tragic period that claim the Hunger Strikers were callously used as pawns in a political game.
    It might not just be Unionists that come to regret the Long Kesh site and all it represents.
    There may be others from a 'Republican' perspective who may come to wish the site was flattened.

  4. Macgiollamhaith April 18, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Two things. First the next time Jim Allister is right about anything will be the first time.
    Second, what exactly is the “real story”, from whose perspective will it be told? Will it include the stories of those abused by a government which systematically discriminated against them in housing, employment and democratic rights. Will it include the stories of those murdered and maimed by the state and its agents? Or will it simply sanitize the past to present one side as bad and the other as whiter than white. I know what it should be, what do you think?

  5. Anonymous April 18, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    Of course there is also a narrative as outlined by Eoghan Harris in the Sunday Independent that not all 10 hunger strikers had to die and that the Sinn Fein leadership prolonged the whole thing for political ends.It will be interesting to see what narrative is outlined in the site.

  6. giordanobruno April 18, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Indeed let's put all the truth out there.
    Don't forget the hunger strikers not only suffered for their beliefs they also caused suffering.
    For example Yvonne Dunlop burnt alive in her shop by a bomb planted by Thomas McElwee.
    Let's not gloss over what they endured or what they caused others to endure.
    And that goes for the truth about all prisoners and why they were there.
    And where the truth is disputed let's present both versions and allow the visitors to decide for themselves.

  7. Jude Collins April 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    Colman: Thanks for your thoughts. Here are mine.
    'We' could well mean a group of people that wouldn't include you (or others). I think it's still a reasonable guess that most people will know most of the hunger-strikers for their deaths in prison than their actions before coming to prison. Francis Hughes is an obvious exception. So you may have your 'we' and I can have mine.

    I can't say whether visitors will 'consider the irony' or not but I'm wondering which former colleagues you have in mind. In fact, I thought Gerry Adams called for the release of prisoners in his Ard Fheis speech.

    I do appreciate that there are people who are very, very keen on somehow discrediting the hunger strikers and in doing so to discredit Sinn Féin. Whether they have the facts on their side I don't know.

    You may be right that others than unionists will wish the Long Kesh site had been flattened. Or you may be wrong. As you don't offer any evidence to support your claim I think I'll give it a miss.

  8. Colman April 18, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Touchy, touchy, Jude. I made no claims, simply offered an opinion and asked a question.

    And don't be coy.. Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin only a day or so ago confirmed Sinn Fein's support for the police and justice system in the 6 counties, which has at its core, the defeat of those Republicans who, rightly or wrongly, believe that some sort of military action is justified in opposing British Rule. He supports McGuinness's viewpoint that those in prison for armed actions are Traitors.

    I don't know anyone wanting to discredit the Hunger Strikers. Curse on the houses of those who would. But, I do know that the story of the Hunger Strike we were fed years ago has been changed, altered and contradicted. Whether you believe the documented evidence now in the public domain is up to you. Whether it makes those who wrote the original narrative uncomfortable and wishing the site was flattened is a matter for their own conscience.

  9. Anonymous April 18, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    The real story is that Irish republicans murdered 2000 people, bombed and destroyed lives and then tried to win sympathy by portraying themselves as “victims” by going on hunger strike.

    And loyalists did similar, save for the hunger strike bit.

  10. Anonymous April 19, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    They should have built that stadium after all but wasnt it the IFA who didnt back the move and now just as they are all set to go with the redevelopment of Windsor Crusaders have decided to throw a massive spanner into the works lol! No fan of Tom but at least he is consistent why have the DUP gone soft on this have they done a deal and got something else out of it?

  11. Anonymous May 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    look out for the Drumcree bulldozer

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