Belfast Telegraph

State Papers revealed: Treasury was reluctant to help compensate struggling Europa

By Rebecca Black

The Europa Hotel almost closed at the height of the Troubles due to repeated attacks by terrorists.

A previously secret file held by the former Ministry of Finance reveals the hotel was plunged into dire financial straits due to the ongoing damage.

But a letter contained in a file titled 'Compensation For Hotels Arising From Loss Of Trade Due To Civil Unrest' reveals the Government was reluctant to provide financial assistance.

The letter sent to RL Workman at HM Treasury in London, dated September 1974, indicates helping the Europa could set a costly precedent.

"We have been under pressure from Commerce for nearly 18 months to provide some assistance for Belfast's Europa Hotel.

"This hotel has been attacked 25 times by terrorists, and has lost an estimated £225,000 (after interest and before tax) in the year to 30 September 1974.

"The losses for the three previous years were £157,000 (1972/3), £105,000 (1971/2) and £166,000 in 1970/1 the year it opened".

The Europa was then owned by the Grand Metropolitan Group and was noted as "the best city centre hotel in Belfast", and the base for many members of the media covering the Troubles.

"Until this year our view had been that Grand Metropolitan was big enough and profitable enough to carry its Belfast losses, and that it would be unwise to create a precedent for compensating one or two hotels in an industry where many small businesses had suffered losses without compensation", the letter said.

But it noted with so many attacks the Europa was at risk of going under which would be a "unique propaganda victory for the terrorists".

While it was agreed to help the Europa, another hotel was allowed to go under.

The Russell Court Hotel was opened in August 1972 on the Lisburn Road but was severely damaged by a car bomb about a month later and was closed until May 1973 when business recommenced on a limited basis.

A letter from a Department of Commerce official to a Department of Finance official, dated November 18, 1974, said because the financial state of the Russell Court was so much worse than that of the Europa, the decision was taken not to help it.

"The Minister expressed sympathy but explained that there could be no question at this present time of assistance on the scale which would be needed to resolve the problem," it read.

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