Our Wounded Knee

By Máirtín Ó Muilleoir

T last – the Maze-Long Kesh Development Board is up and running. It’s been a long time coming. Indeed, the idea of transforming the prison site, once a symbol of division and conflict, into a beacon of peace and reconciliation has been around since the time of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern.

Remember them?

But, más mall is mithid, goes the Irish proverb (better late than never) and the best wishes of all those who believe a shared future can be built on our divided past will go to those who serve on the new board. In particular, it’s a sign of the changing times to see community-grounded architect Ciarán Mackel and East Belfast stalwarts Joe O’Donnell and Jack Gallagher – who doubles as a staunch supporter of Ulster-Scots – represented on the board.

For too long, government boards were the preserve of the golden circle determined to continue the same old, same old agenda. We trust this board will be different.

And Board Chair Terence Brannigan, an individual with an  undoubted commitment to a shared future and respect for all, will know that he faces an awesome task in carrying forward the regeneration of the former prison camp.

In particular, he will appreciate that the conflict resolution centre proposed for the 360-acre site near Lisburn, and centred on the H-Block hospital where the hunger strikers died in 1981, is nationalism’s ‘Wounded Knee’.

One trusts that Mr Brannigan and the entire Board will work to ensure that the grief and desolation of that awful year and of that awful place will soon be replaced by the laughter of our children

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