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Minister in pledge over Belfast Mac's £1m repair bill

By Noel McAdam

Published 01/03/2016

Damage to The MAC’s facade is clearly visible, but the source of the problem remains unclear
Damage to The MAC’s facade is clearly visible, but the source of the problem remains unclear
Damage to The MAC’s facade is clearly visible, but the source of the problem remains unclear
Damage to The MAC’s facade is clearly visible, but the source of the problem remains unclear

Stormont's Culture Minister has voiced her determination to retrieve almost £1 million spent carrying out repairs to Belfast's newest theatre, the Metropolitan Arts Centre (Mac).

Caral Ni Chuilin's vow came after the Assembly heard of fears the public purse is having to "pay twice" for the state-of-the-art building.

Stonework at the entrance of the £18m award-winning Mac began crumbling last year.

There were investigations into the causes and likely liability for large chunks from basalt stone tiles falling off the exterior of the six-storey venue, which only opened in April 2012.

The DUP's Gordon Dunne told MLAs at Assembly question time yesterday: "I think that we are all concerned that an award-winning building is now literally falling apart.

"Does the minister agree that the public should not pay twice for that work at a cost of almost £1m?"

Ms Ní Chuilín replied: "It is regrettable that almost £1m of public money is being spent, certainly not only to carry out repairs but to cover some of the outstanding health and safety-related work."

And she gave an assurance "that my department, through the Arts Council, will pursue, as much as possible, full recovery of the money".

Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend asked what had happened to a legal report on the controversy expected at the end of last month.

The minister replied that various reports were still being pursued.

"It is unfortunate that, given the amount of money that was spent on the Mac, we are now having to invest additional scarce moneys from the public purse to repair a building that really should not need so many repairs, given that it is quite a young building," she added.

The total cost of the repairs required for the facade and pipework is estimated at £938,000, which includes management, professional and legal fees.

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