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'Keep Caroline in Belfast' campaign

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First World War light cruiser HMS Caroline is docked in Belfast

First World War light cruiser HMS Caroline is docked in Belfast

First World War light cruiser HMS Caroline is docked in Belfast

Northern Ireland's Tourism Minister is to enter talks to ensure an historic First World War battleship berthed in Belfast remains in the city.

HMS Caroline has been moored in Belfast since the 1920s but faced being scrapped or transferred to the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth.

Now Stormont minister Arlene Foster said she is to lobby the Ministry of Defence over the vessel, following calls for her to preserve the ship's historic significance and capitalise on its tourism potential.

The cruiser was built in Birkenhead in 1914 and requires major refurbishment to transform it into a visitor attraction.

But during ministerial questions at the Northern Ireland Assembly, Ms Foster told Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister she will seek to broker a deal on the ship's future.

"It has immense tourism potential, and not only that, immense historical and cultural significance for Northern Ireland, being the last battleship that served, if you like, in the First World War and at the battle of Jutland," the minister said.

Ms Foster said the vessel was only decommissioned by the Ministry of Defence in March last year.

"And since then, despite the fact that it doesn't necessarily all fall to me as Tourism Minister, I have taken up the case and commissioned a business case back in August of last year," she said.

"I have just recently received that business case and I hope to meet with the Defence Minister Nick Harvey in the very near future to discuss HMS Caroline.

"Of course we want to keep HMS Caroline in Belfast. I believe the solution is actually a partnership between the National Museum of the Royal Navy who own the ship, so that we can keep it here in Belfast."

PA