A Derry MLA has voiced concerns over a lack of government backing for plans to build a dedicated maritime museum in the city.
SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said a government funding package, and a proposed opening date for the museum at Ebrington, remain some way off - despite the National Lottery Heritage Fund last week pledging an initial £278,000 and a final funding package of £3million for the project.
Earlier this week, in response to a Assembly question from the Derry MLA, the north’s Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers ((OFMDFM)) revealed that “funding requirements for the project are still being finalised and it is too early to predict an opening date for the museum given that a full funding package is not yet in place for the project.”
Mr Eastwwod says OFMDFM “need to put their money where their mouth is, just as the Heritage Lottery did earlier this week.”
He said: “The news, earlier this week, that the Heritage Lottery Fund has come on board to back the establishment of Derry’s Maritime Museum was broadly and very rightly welcomed.
“What is of some concern however is that central government backing for this project appears to be a number of steps behind the commitment shown by the Heritage Lottery Fund. After submitting a series of ministerial questions it is now confirmed that, as of yet, there is no funding package agreed to drive this project to its completion.
“The One Plan advocated that building should have started by the end of March 2012. It is therefore, already, seriously behind schedule. My worry would be that further delays will kick-in if government fails to get its act together. OFMDFM need to put their money where their mouth is, just as the Heritage Lottery did earlier this week.”
It is envisaged that the museum, which will be based at Ebrington, will chart Derry’s maritime history from the early beginnings of the city, through to its emergence as a major commercial and military port.
The exhibitions will include the largest collection of emigration records from the 18th and 19th centuries held outside the Public Records Office.