SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin has said the failure to develop the former Maze prison site cannot be allowed to continue.
She was speaking as the Assembly's Executive Office Committee received a briefing on the development of the site.
SDLP Lagan Valley MLA Pat Catney has long been calling for the site to be developed for the benefit of the local community.
Ms McLaughlin said:
“It’s inconceivable that over 20 years on from the closure of the Maze prison this prime development site lies unused. We have heard numerous plans and proposals to develop this site come forward over the years, but the inability to reach an agreement has cost the public a key facility the North millions in potential funding.
“While serving as Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan helped negotiate the ownership of key military sites from the Ministry of Defence to the Executive so that they could be used to benefit people here. Sites like Crumlin Road Gaol have been redeveloped and become a jewel in our tourism crown, but still the Maze lies empty, despite the SDLP’s vision.
“Like too many key projects, the Maze prison site is yet another casualty of the dysfunction that has permeated The Executive Office for the 15 years it has been led by Sinn Féin and the DUP. They have been more interested in using the Maze site to score political points against each other than to see it’s full potential realised for the benefit of local people. The huge opportunities this site presents have been stifled as a direct result of their own self-interest and lack of vision to make real change.”
Lagan Valley MLA Pat Catney said:
“For as long as I have been a public representative I have been urging action to make this site a hub for everyone in Lagan Valley and beyond. There is a real opportunity for this to become a flagship project that could both create new jobs and attract visitors to this area.
“We are currently spending a fortune on the upkeep of this site and getting nowhere. We need to see a real sea change in the approach to the Maze site if it is ever going to realise its full potential and I hope the upcoming election returns local MLAs and Ministers who are determined to deliver it for the people in this area.”