Maze Site

Oral Answers to Questions — First minister and Deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 9th September 2002.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 2:45 pm, 9th September 2002

4. asked the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister what discussions have taken place with the Ministry of Defence regarding the removal of contaminated materials from the Maze site.

(AQO 35/02)

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland

We understand that diesel contamination was found at the Ministry of Defence site at Long Kesh, adjacent to Maze Prison. Remedial work has now been completed, and levels are below those prescribed. A six-month monitoring has recently begun to ensure that the levels remain within the required limits.

The Northern Ireland Office is not aware of any contamination on the Maze prison site.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I thank the Deputy First Minister for his response. Will he further ascertain whether other contamination has taken place? I have heard allegations that toxic materials were disposed of at the Maze site during the 1970s. I have also been informed that asbestos may have been dumped there. It would be difficult to develop the site unless some form of decontamination took place. I ask that it be fully investigated to ascertain whether there are any materials that might be dangerous to the public if the site were developed.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland

I am not aware of the contamination that the Member has referred to or has heard allegations of, but since he has brought the matter to the OFMDFM’s attention, it will be pursued to enable us to be fully aware of what material is on the site and what the condition of the site is.

Photo of Alex Attwood Alex Attwood Social Democratic and Labour Party

The Deputy First Minister appreciates that one of Belfast’s great natural assets is its hills — Castlereagh, Cavehill, Black Mountain and Divis Mountain. Mindful that the Black Mountain has been ravaged by quarrying — more for private profit than to meet public need — has the Deputy First Minister raised the issue of the Ministry of Defence’s disposal of land at Divis Mountain? What steps can be taken to ensure that public access to that land continues and develops?

Photo of Lord John Alderdice Lord John Alderdice Speaker

If the Minister can see a connection with the question he is a better man than I am — but then he is a better man than I am.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland

The connection, I assume, is the disposal of Ministry of Defence land. The Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister is aware of the community’s strong interest in the future use of the land at Divis Mountain, and it knows that there have been discussions involving the Ministry of Defence, the National Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund. We support the objective of making land at Divis Mountain accessible in the future. The Department of the Environment has been keeping in touch with those issues. The land was not included in the reinvestment and reform initiative on the basis that the Ministry of Defence believed that the future of the land had been settled through negotiations with the National Trust.