Prison Service: Archived Material
Private Members’ Business
Sean Lynch (Sinn Féin)
Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Like my colleague, I declare an interest as a republican ex-prisoner who spent many years in a number of prisons. I am very encouraged by the maturity of the debate today. The Member who spoke previously said that, one time, a snooker ball went missing. I think that I remember us searching for that snooker ball in Long Kesh.
Nobody denies that the Prison Service played a major role over the past 40 years — indeed, the past 200 years — in the prisons. However, its role, like that of all other stakeholders, should be told and, as the motion states, fully archived. I believe that that can be best done within the framework of the proposed conflict resolution centre on the Long Kesh/Maze site.
As the motion states and Michelle McIlveen said, there is a wealth of information. I heard that there are 66,000 pieces. Indeed, I have many in the attic myself from a different perspective. Most of the material held is of historical significance, and from all perspectives. It is not only from a republican perspective that I say that all records should be maintained, because, as my colleague said, material relating to the British Army, the Quakers and the various prisoner organisations that passed through and were associated with the prisons should be archived. There needs to be equality of all stakeholders’ material, and perspectives should be collected, fully archived, totally maintained and made accessible to the public. That can be best done on the sites that we have. We have a number of sites that are only beginning to come to fruition.
I also believe that they can be of educational importance, so that present and future generations can learn the lessons about the need to avoid conflict.
The site and the archive material can also provide a tourist perspective. I have visited Kilmainham jail in Dublin on a number of occasions, and, as was mentioned earlier, it brings huge numbers of people to that city. I have also visited Robben Island, the famous prison in South Africa. It has become one of the major tourist attractions in that country, bringing thousands of people there each year.
We have had a very mature debate, and I support the motion, but it should be inclusive of all.