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Disappointing Royal Navy has not agreed deal over HMS Caroline, says Dickson

It is disappointing the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) has not agreed to take up an offer from the Department for the Economy (DFE) to continue operating HMS Caroline in Belfast, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson has said.

The ship, which served in World War I, has been docked in Belfast since 1924. It is run by the Portsmouth-based NMRN and was closed in March due to the pandemic. Costs to maintain the warship has been covered by the DFE but now the museum could be moved to Portsmouth after that agreement expired and no new deal agreed. Consultants have been brought in to determine the future for the museum, which could see 10 staff face redundancy.

“Firstly, my thoughts are with those staff members who may face redundancy in this matter and I hope they are given the support needed,” said Mr Dickson.

“It is disappointing that following the DFE’s agreeing to cover the costs of HMS Caroline’s staff until the end of this year, following the end of the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme this week, the legal terms to underpin that have not been agreed with NMRN.

“There has been speculation the ship may be moved to Portsmouth due to staff being furloughed and maintenance not being carried out. That would be the wrong move, given how we are trying to boost tourism in Northern Ireland due to the pandemic. I would encourage NMRN to make the agreement with the DFE and sure this important tourist attraction remains in Belfast.”