Peace centre at Maze prison site given planning go-ahead

Attwood grants permission for Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre

A controversial peace centre at the site of the former Maze prison in Northern Ireland has been given the green light by planners.

Stormont's Minister for Planning Alex Attwood has granted permission for the Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre at the Maze near Lisburn.

Ten republican prisoners died on hunger strike at the prison in the early 1980s.

Proposals for the facility have been the source of major political discord in the region, with many unionists unhappy that it could become a “shrine to terrorism”.


Former prison buildings, including the hospital block where the hunger strikers died, are being retained on the 350-acre site, although they will not form part of the peace centre.

Mr Attwood said: “I have today granted permission for the proposed centre. There is learning to be taken from the conflict here. The centre can contribute to sharing this learning and perhaps to help inform the resolution of conflict in other places.”

The Maze housed republican and loyalist paramilitaries for almost 30 years during the Troubles.

Fierce debate

It closed in 2000 after prisoners were released en masse under the terms of the Belfast Aagreement of 1998. Ever since there has been fierce debate over what the state-owned site should be turned into.

Plans for a multi-sports stadium for soccer, gaelic football and rugby hit the buffers in the face of unionist opposition.

The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS) has agreed to relocate to the site, where it will host its annual show.

The peace centre is being built with a European Union grant.

The approval of planning permission for the facility is set to spark fresh political debate, with unionists and republican politicians already clashing over how the story of the Troubles, in particular the hunger strikes, should be told.

The building was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, in conjunction with McAdam Design.

“I believe that good planning needs good design,” said Mr Attwood. “That is certainly the case in the design of the Centre created by Daniel Libeskind, a world leader in architecture and a friend of Northern Ireland.”

Retained buildings

A further application for minor works to the listed and retained prison buildings on the site has also been granted planning permission by the Minister.

Mr Attwood hailed planners for processing the planning applications in less than six months.

“This is another example of the benefit of pro-active pre-application discussion and community consultation in dealing with major planning applications of regional significance, such as this,” he said.

“This will play a significant part in meeting a target of the EU funding programme and I am determined to continue making major planning decisions speedily and accurately and making a planning system more fit to achieve its purpose.”