Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has stressed Aontú’s backing for the preservation of what remains of the Long Kesh/H-Blocks prison and the construction of a Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre.

Teachta Tóibín stated:

“The importance of Long Kesh in recent Irish history cannot be overstated.

“Sites of such historical significance must be protected. To censure or obscure the history of such sites and what went on there is to pursue a one-sided agenda aimed at pretending the past did not happen or seeking to diminishing that past. The truth of the matter is that these sites are rich with history and contain much of the story of who we all are and why our society is the way it is.”

“The preservation of the sole remaining H-Block and the prison hospital is of utmost importance. Prior to the opening of the H-Blocks, it was at the nearby Long Kesh camp where thousands of political prisoners were interned without trial, all of a nationalist background until the first unionist internees of 1973. The ramifications of Britain’s internment policy included an upsurge in conflict from 1971.”

“The British government’s subsequent criminalisation policy was integral to the construction of the H-Blocks maximum security prison. Refusal to recognise the political nature of the prisoners detained there resulted in prison protests that culminated in the deaths of ten Irish republicans on hunger strike. The importance of that event in shaping recent Irish history and contemporary politics ought to be recognised and is reason enough for the preservation of the H-Blocks site and the construction of a Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre at that location.”

“The closure of the H-Blocks in 2000 came as political prisoners were released in the wake of the Good Friday Agreement. From 1971 to 2000, the site bore testament to thirty years of conflict in our recent past. It would be a wasted opportunity for the site not to be part of creating a brighter future.”

“It is entirely appropriate that the Long Kesh site would be developed to include a Peace Building and Conflict Resolution Centre. A place at the centre of as much conflict as the H-Blocks have been should be preserved and open to the public. Further, there is great potential for such a centre to play a meaningful role in securing long-term peace between people of opposing political backgrounds. Rumours that plans for such a centre have been dropped are very worrying. It is important that we as a society can engage in a pluralistic fashion with the past and work constructively and honestly with each other while respecting our different understandings of history.”

“It is incumbent on all in positions of authority to ensure that another crucial historical site, that of the H-Blocks, and the history of the events indelibly connected with it are not lost. It is equally incumbent on us all to not lose sight of the future and to support the construction of a Peace and Conflict Resolution Centre, which will be a force for healing, hope and positive community relations.”