Families of Teebane victims to protest against Maze ‘hunger striker shrine’

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RELATIVES of those killed in the Teebane massacre will protest against a proposed multi-million pound prison project which they fear will become a ‘terrorist shrine’.

Last week the First Minister and Deputy First Minister announced that an agreement had been reached on appointing a board to oversee the development of the Maze prison project.

Eleven members, including one chairperson, will oversee the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation to develop plans for the 360 acre site near Lisburn. A museum and conflict resolution and transformation centre have already been outlined for the former H Block ground.

But since details of the OFMDFM policy deal was revealed, victims and relatives of those maimed or murdered during the Troubles have vehemently opposed the plans.

They fear that cells used by IRA hunger strikers such as South Derry man Francis Hughes will be ‘transformed into shrines’.

A protest has been organised in the coming months at the former prison site, where relatives of those killed in the IRA massacre at Teebane crossroads, Cookstown will also attend.

Speaking to the Mid-Ulster Mail this week, protest organiser and victims campaigner William Frazer said: “This is not only about re-writing the history of a dirty conflict which murdered and maimed hundreds of thousands of victims, but the glorification of

IRA killers such as Francis Hughes and Thomas McElwee.”

“In 1976 McElwee murdered a 26 year-old Protestant woman after he placed a bomb outside her shop, while in 1978 Hughes callously shot dead a British soldier.

“How can anyone support such a shrine in memory of ruthless, cold hearted murderers?” said Mr Frazer, who himself lost five family members to republican violence.

He continued: “Since announcement has been made we have been inundated with calls from both within Northern Ireland and the mainland and contrary to what people may think a lot of those calls were from the Roman Catholic community who were also innocent victims.”

Mr Frazer added: “We are organising a rally to protest about the shrine to the hunger strikers. Not only do we see this as a shrine but we also see this as the financing of the new HQ for SF/IRA financed by the British Government.

“We intend this rally to be held in late August or September and already innocent victims from Kingsmill, Darkley, Tulyvallen, Teebane, Enniskillen, Shankill Road, Narrow Water, La Mon, Claudy, Dropping Well and Bloody Friday, to name but a few of the atrocities that families represent are prepared to walk at the head of the protest.”

The Armagh campaigner, who is the Director of FAIR (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives) group, said that a number of bands and Orangemen have also pledged to take part in the protest march.

He concluded: “We invite people from all cultures to attend this rally. No longer will we stand back and allow them to divide our people.”

Delays and disagreements have previoulsy overshadowed plans to transform the 360-acre site, as well as other initiatives, such as the new Education Skills Authority. But with the Assembly in summer recess, the ministers have been able to tackle the backlog.

A chairperson and ten board members will now be appointed to oversee the Maze/Long Kesh Development Corporation, and separately a single Victims Commissioner has been selected and will be announced in the coming weeks.