Belfast Telegraph

Exploris: Environment Minister Mark H Durkan hopeful about future of under-threat aquarium

By Noel McAdam

The Environment Minister says he hopes to make a "positive announcement" about the future of the threatened Exploris aquarium in the "not so distant future".

But Mark H Durkan also confirmed that agreement on a £900,000 capital investment package for Northern Ireland's only aquarium has yet to get through the five-party Executive.

The minister pledged to "continue to do all within my power to ensure that the capital investment required to keep Exploris open is forthcoming from the Executive". "I have brought that to the Executive table and will ensure that it stays on the Executive table and I look forward to a positive announcement in the not so distant future," he added.

He said while various departments had voiced support for the aquatic facility in Portaferry, no minister – including Arlene Foster with responsibility for tourism – has yet formally agreed to the business plan that includes the £900,000 capital grant.

"The purpose of the Executive paper that I have tabled is to obtain their formal approval," he said.

The minister added: "The business case basically outlines the fact that, without this capital injection, Exploris must close. However, with this cash injection and these necessary improvements made, Exploris can be put on a sound business footing for years to come."

Up to £120,000 a year has already been pledged by Mr Durkan to maintain the seal sanctuary at the centre.

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