Long Kesh future debate

One of the watchtowers at the former Long Kesh site. (2809MM10)

One of the watchtowers at the former Long Kesh site. (2809MM10)

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Local MLAs have said the planned conflict transformation centre at the former Long Kesh prison site should be accessible to all traditions.

The issue of the future of the former prison was debated in Stormont this week and led to disputes between unionists on how the site should be used.

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney, a former Long Kesh prisoner, said the centre should represent all aspects of modern Irish history.

“The building of a Conflict Resolution Centre can see it become a venue for assisting other troubled parts of the world and also a resource for those researching the Irish Peace Process.

“We need to celebrate diversity and the Long Kesh site is one that has a history that is different to many of us. Respecting each other and each other’s history is essential as we move further away from conflict,” he said.

Mr McCartney also said that the centre would be of economic as well as cultural importance.

“There is a lot of history at the site and it should be developed in order to maximise the economic, historic and reconciliation potential available, this is a site of national and international importance,” he said.

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said the site should be used to commemorate the centenaries of major political events which will occur in the next 10 years.

“I would propose therefore that this Centre is tasked with the substantive issue of our forthcoming centenaries. The transformative decade which shaped the formation of this island for the last century, be it through conflict, through identity or through the tragedy of partition, is soon set to be celebrated or commemorated throughout Ireland.

“It should be abundantly clear that we cannot ignore this history. Our complex past is very much on the horizon of our immediate future,” Mr Eastwood said.