A leading terror victims’ organisation has hit out at an American architect who says the Maze Peace centre will go ahead.
The New York architect who designed the peace centre for the former Maze prison site, Daniel Libeskind, believes objections by First Minister Peter Robinson to the centre are all part of the process in the completion of the project.
Mr Libeskind masterminded the Ground Zero project in New York and the Jewish Holocaust Museum in Berlin.
“I’ve seen that pause button in every project,” he said. “I think that every building (I’ve worked on) had a similar process; initial impetus then: ‘How do we get consensus? How do we bring people together?’
“But in every one of those instances the building was able to forge a path towards the future. So I think it will happen. I think that people will understand that it’s not a shrine to terrorism. I have full confidence that it will happen.”
In a public letter last month, Mr Robinson ruled out any public use of the last H-block where paramilitaries were held and the hospital where hunger strikers died.
Mr Libeskind says in a BBC documentary to be aired this Sunday that those who believed the site would glorify terrorists were wrong.
“It’s a complete falsehood,” he told Mark Carruthers. “I was born in Poland, my parents were Holocaust survivors. I was born in a communist country and dreaded going to school there,” he said.
“How can I, who embrace democracy and open society, be involved in something as evil as celebrating terrorism? Who in their right mind would do that? I would never be involved in this project if I did not consider it something important – to bring people to Belfast to that site.”
But Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, a coalition of 14 terror victims groups, hit out at Mr Libeskind’s comments.
“Mr Libeskind is speaking well outside his brief, a world-renowned architect he may be but he is not credible to start giving advice around what that site does and does not signify,” he said. “The people of Northern Ireland and moreover the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism know exactly what the site represents – it is the Provo Irish Republicanism’s Robben Island.”
“How would Mr Libeskind respond if he was approached to design a peace building centre at a former Holocaust site that would include gas chambers as an ‘annexe’ and where within the centre the accounts of the Nazis and their justification for the Holocaust was given equal status with the experiences of Holocaust survivors?”
He went on to challenge the Office of First and Deputy Minister to say whether the project has been withdrawn or not.
Hear the BBC Radio Ulster documentary, Building On The Past, on Sunday, September 29 at 1.30pm.