01/08/2014

Executive Funding Saves Exploris

The Northern Ireland Executive has approved the necessary funding to save Exploris Aquarium in Co Down.

On Thursday evening it was confirmed that a total of £900,000 would be set aside for the Portaferry-based aquarium. The site has been under threat of closure by its owner, Ards Borough Council, after it said the annual £600,000 cost of running it was too high.

Welcoming the news, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: "I very much welcome the fact that the Executive has accepted my proposal that capital funding is provided to update the facilities at Exploris and keep it open.

"It is excellent news for all the supporters of Exploris, both near and far, and particularly for the people of Portaferry. They have fought a valiant campaign, highlighting not just the regional importance of Exploris, but have also argued that it is vital to the social and economic well being of the town.
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"I have already committed funding from DOE to ensure the local seal sanctuary stays open. That was a key building block for saving Exploris. Now that I have secured Executive funding, I trust that Ards Borough Council will be able to reverse its recent decision to close this wonderful facility.

"I have supported and represented their case throughout and today is a vital step forward in securing the long term future of Exploris."

The funding has also been welcomed by NIPSA.

NIPSA Official Antoinette McMillen said: "This outcome vindicates fully the united campaign by NIPSA along with community supporters of Exploris to keep this important facility operating fully for the future. NIPSA wishes to thank the Assembly members, Ministers and other political representatives for their support for this campaign."

Deputy General Secretary, Alison Millar, added: "This has been a long and difficult campaign for all involved – however NIPSA and the Save Exploris Aquarium campaign for regional funding has borne fruit and will hopefully secure the future of this excellent regional facility for generations to come."

Exploris has a number of marine exhibitions as well as a seal sanctuary on the shores of Strangford Lough. In 2012, it celebrated its 25th anniversary.

(JP/CD)

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