LISBURN, Northern Ireland, April 25 (UPI) -- Plans for the land that formerly housed Northern Ireland's notorious Maze Prison call for a business park focused on new technologies, the developers say.
The site, 347 acres in Lisburn, a town southwest of Belfast, is the largest one in Northern Ireland that is publicly owned, the Belfast Telegraph reported. First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were enthusiastic about the project's potential at a launch event Wednesday.
The Maze/Long Kesh Development Corp. predicted the project will create 5,000 jobs. Officials said nine construction companies are currently at work there.
The Maze, a former Royal Air Force base, was used to house paramilitary prisoners from 1971 to 2000. In 1981, 10 republican prisoners led by Bobby Sands died while on hunger strike.
McGuinness, who received a six-month sentence in the 1970s for paramilitary activity, called the Maze site "the most exciting piece of land anywhere in western Europe." He said the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society, which has announced its decision to move to the site, is a "pioneer."
"That's the first real manifestation of what this site can do for our economy, for our people, as we move forward," he said. "We have taken a huge decision in terms of how we intend to move this hugely important site forward."
Terrence Brannigan, the corporation's chairman, said international businesses have inquired about locating to the Maze.