Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: Northern Ireland treasure trove of art gathering dust in warehouse

A treasure trove of art linked to the key moments in Northern Ireland's history was uncovered for the first time after years in storage.

TUV leader Jim Allister has been campaigning for six years for the items to be put back on public display.

Most of the items were moved to storage in 1995 to allow refurbishment at Parliament Buildings at Stormont.

Included is a portrait of Northern Ireland first Prime Minister James Craig in ceremonial uniform, the wig worn by Sir Hugh O'Neill, the Speaker of the Northern Ireland House of Commons and a table thought to have been used for the signing of the 1801 Act of Union.

In the past six years almost £80,000 has been spent on housing the items which are currently housed in a warehouse outside Belfast.

MLA Jim Allister said: “After several years campaigning on the issue I was permitted to view the many artefacts and works of art belonging to the Assembly - and thus to the public - which have been hidden away for years in commercial storage, for which the public is paying over £11,000 per annum.

“I found nothing offensive or objectionable from which the public must be protected.

“Instead, I saw some marvellous and interesting works of art and historic memorabilia which are part of Northern Ireland's history and which should be available for any interested member of the public to see. Why should things as varied as portraits of former Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland, a model of Thiepval Tower, various ceremonial items, the stand for the Bell from HMS Ulster and the ceremonial wig of the first Speaker, be hidden away?

“I am renewing my call for the Assembly Commission to establish a permanent exhibition of these items in Parliament Buildings so that any interested member of the public can view them. There are plenty of empty rooms.”

An Assembly Spokeswoman added: “While a small number of the artefacts and artwork held by the Assembly Commission are currently in offsite storage, most are either on permanent public display, displayed in other parts of Parliament Buildings or on long term loan to other locations.

"Once the Assembly appoints a new Commission, it will be open to it to consider the merits of an exhibition of artwork in Parliament Buildings.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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