Sinn Fein mayor helps Apprentice Boys launch £3m visitor centre plan
The Sinn Fein mayor of Londonderry is joining Apprentice Boys leaders in a historic move to launch a new visitor centre.
The unprecedented move comes as it was announced that more than £2m worth of assistance from the European Union's PEACE III programme has been awarded to the trustees of the Apprentice Boys of Derry.
The money will be used to create the new visitor centre and renovate the existing Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall on Society Street in the city centre.
The total costs of the new developments will be £3,251,641 with the EU stomping up £2,231,641.
Welcoming the project, Mayor Kevin Campbell said: “The city has many historic buildings and this most certainly is one of them, and I look forward to seeing this project being delivered to create a new visitor centre and shared space for the city.”
The funding will be used to create a new interpretive facility called the Siege Heroes Museum and Shared Space Visitors Centre, designed to educate people about the Great Siege of 1689, and to build upon current cross-community outreach work.
New teaching materials on the history of the Great Siege, are to developed for primary and secondary schools.
These will link in with both the Northern Ireland and the Republic educational syllabuses.
Information packs are to be manufactured for tourists and the Catholic community and others in Derry who may have had little or no engagement with the Apprentice Boys of Derry.
General secretary for the Apprentice Boys of Derry, William Moore, said: “I am delighted that funding is now secured and that work will commence during 2013 on the development of the project.
“This new centre will greatly assist the Apprentice Boys to continue with their outreach work with all communities and promote a greater understanding of the ethos, history and culture celebrated by the Association.
“This project will assist the Protestant community to play their role in being part of a shared city, where all traditions are welcomed and valued,” he added.
Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said the project will “promote a shared and better future by presenting an informed view of an historic chapter in the history of Londonderry”.
Commenting on the planned centre, the Republic’s Environment Minister Phil Hogan said: “This project has great potential to enrich our understanding of the history of the city.”
The Memorial Hall, to be refurbished under the project, will be of interest to a wide-range of community groups.
Originally dedicated to the 13 Apprentice Boys who closed the gates of the City in 1688, it was also used as a dance hall during and post Second World War.