Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's nuclear war bunker to be saved

Campaigners hope site will get historical protection

By Michelle Weir

Northern Ireland's planned war room in the event of a nuclear attack is set to be preserved for posterity.

It may seem less than ordinary from the outside, but as the UK braced itself for an atomic bomb at the height of the Cold War, the eyes of the world could have been on this humble-looking brick building.

The Regional Government War Room, in the Malone area of south Belfast, is one of 13 such buildings dotted across the UK which were designed in 1952-53 by the Working Party on Civil Defence War Rooms, and constructed to be able to remain standing after a nuclear attack.

Thankfully this was never put to the test, but the single storey building with 1.5m thick concrete walls at Mount Eden Park, was in use until the mid-1960s.

These days it is simply used for storage, but it is set to receive historical protection.

Belfast City Council's Planning Committee will consider during a meeting next Tuesday a proposal to give the war room B1 listing, a status which is retained for "special buildings of more local importance or good examples of some period of style. Some degree of alteration or imperfection may be acceptable".

Historian and author Dr David Hume, from Ballycarry, has welcomed the move towards listing, adding that Cold War era buildings are often forgotten about.

"This is a very significant historical building and it is impressive that it has remained fairly intact in terms of its original design over the years. It certainly deserves protection and if it were to be listed, this would enhance its status and ensure it is protected for the future," he said.

"Often buildings are on our doorsteps or passed by every day and most people remain oblivious to the history which they convey.

"Many look back to the Second World War, particularly at this time of year, but the era of the Cold War is often forgotten and it is a major historical period which does not deserve to be neglected. The world emerged from the Second World War but found itself in a new situation, with communism and capitalism locking horns and a very tense diplomatic situation which included the period of the Berlin Air Lift, the Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

"Thankfully, the Cold War did not develop into the conflict that planners had feared but structures such as this one are a reminder that serious consideration and planning went into trying to ensure that in a conflict, governmental structures would survive. Whether this was a realistic view in the face of a nuclear war, of course, remains ponderable."

Deputy Lord Lieutenant for Co Antrim and historian Liam Kelly added: "This building is a part of the history that everybody can share. It is important that in years to come people can see what life was like in a particular era. It is very important that it is retained for future generations."

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