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Innocent Victims say no to Republican Shrine

As the controversy over the Shrine at the Maze rumbles on there appears to be an un-willingness by those engaged in the debate to listen to the people whose opinions should be central to the issue. Victims should have the last say in this affair as it was for our benefit that the facility was built. It was built to protect us from those who had and continue to terrorise us, it was constructed to incarcerate those who had murdered and injured our loved ones, and it was maintained to give us some degree of security from the men of violence. The disgusting sight of these men being released from jail as political appeasement was visited upon us in 1998. We were ignored and marginalised as the government eroded the rule of law and natural justice to buy off the terrorists. The prisoner releases were a shocking and immoral act that did incalculable hurt to victims. Now we fear that just as justice was destroyed to buy terrorists into the 1998 deal truth will now be destroyed to buy them into the 2007 deal.

Shaun Woodward has given a promise that there will be no shrine however given the record of the British government in keeping promises to the victims we must be excused for a degree of scepticism. After all we were told governments would never talk to terrorists, would never concede to their demands, would never let them out of prison, would never let them benefit from the political process until they had stopped their violence and handed over their weapons. The list of broken promises goes on and on, and the disillusionment of victims in particular and the unionist community generally grows. Therefore we demand a meeting with the new Secretary of State to clarify what he means by a Shrine and to assure us as to how he will guarantee it is not allowed to be preserved at the Maze.

While he and other talk about the sports organisations having the final say in these matters we would remind him that it will be the victims who have the final say. The government has tried with varying degrees of success to bully bribe and blackmail the sports people, however they have yet to try and approach the victims. Perhaps they know we are immune to such pressures or perhaps they just donít care whatever the reason we are putting on record our determination to oppose this development unless we have our legitimate demands met. Any development such as this cannot succeed with purely government money, private investment is needed and if government do not listen to us we will take our case to the businesses that may invest or locate to the proposed site.

We are sure that franchises, and investors and others would not be keen to locate or invest at such a contentious and problematic location. In todayís competitive market even in Northern Ireland there are numerous developments most notably in the capital city itself which do not offer the array of problems, and potential for failure that the Maze does. If victims mobile to accentuate the existing problems for the Maze site we are confident that we could ensure its failure as a commercial venture. However unlike Republicans we are not in the business of destroying Northern Ireland, we want to see a new prosperous peaceful and inclusive country and would like to encourage investment and development. However in our vision for a new Northern Ireland there must be a place for victims, there must be a commemoration of the loss and sacrifice made by so many to defend democracy. However there is no place for terrorism its glorification or commemoration. There cannot be a redrafting of history where the men of violence and the terrorist is portrayed as icons or heroes. If that is the vision of the future epitomised by the Maze we would rather see it lie as a wasteland, a symbol in its very destruction of the damage done by conflict here. Unless victims are at the heart of a new Northern Ireland and the Maze development neither will work. We will no longer be ignored; we will no longer be treated as second class citizens we will be listened to.

We hope that Mr Woodward and others will choose to listen to us in the comfort of their offices and treat us with the respect that victims deserve. If not he will hear us from the streets of Belfast and Dublin, he will read of our demands not from the agenda of our meeting but from the pages of the press. We will be heard the only question for the government and our politicians is how and when.


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