Northern Ireland

£2m Free Derry museum rebuild at risk says trust

Conal McFeely is chair person of the Bloody Sunday Trust
Image caption Conal McFeely is chairperson of the Bloody Sunday Trust

A £2m extension to the Museum of Free Derry is at risk because Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster has not signed off on a £1.2m tourist board grant, the Bloody Sunday Trust has warned.

Plans for the museum in the Bogside could fall through, trust chair Conal McFeely said.

"It means the project is dead in the water if we cannot get them to release the letter of offer for £1.2m."

The Department for Enterprise said the project was still being considered.

The trust, which runs the museum, says it already has funding agreed in principle from the Department of Social Development and the Heritage Lottery fund - but it all hinges on Ms Foster agreeing to release the tourist board money.

In a letter to Sinn Féin MLA Maeve McLaughlin dated 26 February this year, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) said it was "only awaiting ministerial approval to proceed and issue a letter of offer for approximately £1.2m for phase two of the museum".

However, Mr McFeely said that eight months later, they were still waiting. On 31 October, a £500,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will expire.

He said the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) money had been approved and that the Department of Social Development was offering £300,000 in funds. But everything rested on the NITB grant and minister's letter of approval.

"Now it is critical," he said.

"If we do not get the minister to sign off, the project is dead. The entire package is dependent on the main funder coming through. Over eight months we have attempted to do this properly without going public.

"We feel we are now in a critical phase and the project is not going to proceed due to the failure to get the letter from the NITB.

"The Bloody Sunday families are asking, 'is the minister opposed to this politically?'"

The trust wants to meet Ms Foster to establish why the grant has not yet been approved.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Industry said: "As the project promoters have already been advised, the project is currently being considered.

"All projects are assessed as part of the approvals process and it is not appropriate to indicate where in the approvals process any projects sits."

The Heritage Lottery Fund has confirmed it had awarded a £500,000 grant that is due to expire on 31 October 2013. It said the HLF remained "hopeful" that a positive decision could be reached over funding in time to stop the grant being lost.

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