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Sporting museum dream 'should not be allowed to wither away'

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Sporting heroes: Olympic Gold Medallist Lady Mary Peters gets a lesson on the Formula One simulator from Eddie Irivine at an event to promote the Ulster Sports Museum in Bangor in 2010

Sporting heroes: Olympic Gold Medallist Lady Mary Peters gets a lesson on the Formula One simulator from Eddie Irivine at an event to promote the Ulster Sports Museum in Bangor in 2010

Sporting heroes: Olympic Gold Medallist Lady Mary Peters gets a lesson on the Formula One simulator from Eddie Irivine at an event to promote the Ulster Sports Museum in Bangor in 2010

A former Stormont sports minister has said plans for a museum celebrating Northern Ireland's heroic sporting achievements under one roof "should not be allowed to wither away".

Nelson McCausland was speaking after a committee of leading figures campaigning for a permanent national sporting memorial admitted defeat after 20 years of knock backs.

Olympic pentathlon gold medallist, Lady Mary Peters, and former Ireland and Lions rugby international Nigel Carr have confirmed that they are winding up their Ulster Sports Museum charity.

Despite many pledges and promises of support, and offers of historic sporting exhibits, they say their efforts floundered due to a lack of real commitment to financial support from government.

Both said they felt the museum would have paid for itself, as a tourist attraction and an inspiration to future generations.

Over 70 leading sporting figures had already agreed to become patrons of the museum.

Lady Mary's 1972 Munich Olympic gold medal is currently on loan display at the Ulster Museum but she would "dearly love" to see it on permanent display in a sports museum here, having "won it for Northern Ireland".

The major stumbling block for the project is money and sustainability through a guaranteed long term funding stream.

Mr McCausland, who served as Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure between 2009 and 2011, has expressed his disappointment that the museum bid has halted due to lack of funding.

He said: "Northern Ireland has a rich sporting tradition and that is reflected in the success of our current sporting heroes such as Jonathan Rea, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

"Countries around the world celebrate their sporting heritage and it is regrettable that Northern Ireland is still without a sports museum."

The former DUP MLA for North Belfast added: "Those who have championed this vision down through the years deserve credit for their endeavour and it is something that the Executive should now be embedding in its future plan.

"A sports museum would not be just about looking back and celebrating success, it would also support the vision of a shared future by reminding us of some of the things we shared in the past.

"When Mary Peters achieved her Olympic success, people from every community in Northern Ireland celebrated with her.

"Such shared experiences help to build a shared future.

"It would also inspire our up and coming sports men and women and encourage participation in sport - which is one of the best ways of tackling the problem of obesity.

"With all the benefits that could flow from a Northern Ireland Sports Museum it is a project that should not be allowed to wither away."

Gary McAllister, from the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters Clubs, added: "I'm sure, like me, many people will be disappointed to hear this news.

"Northern Ireland has such a rich history of sporting achievement, something which has shone a positive light on our country during many difficult times.

"Hopefully this is something that could be revisited in the future, because I believe there is a lot of potential to attract large numbers to a location which could incorporate football and all of our sporting history," Mr McAllister added.

Belfast Telegraph


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