Maritime Museum on hold

HRH Prince Michael of Kent pictured at the unveiling of the international sailor statue at Ebrington Square on Saturday. INLS2013-156KM
HRH Prince Michael of Kent pictured at the unveiling of the international sailor statue at Ebrington Square on Saturday. INLS2013-156KM

The proposed Maritime Museum at Ebrington Square won’t open until 2019 at the earliest - a full three years behind schedule.

The opening of the museum was originally to have been the centrepiece of ‘Maritime City 2016’ - as outlined in the Derry City Council’s Legacy Plan following the City of Culture year in 2013 but that now appears to have been shelved.

The Maritime Museum, one of the key components of the regeneration of Ebrington - was originally due to have opened this year.

That date was then put back to 2017 and the Sentinel can now reveal that the project has been postponed to 2019 at the earliest.

A Derry City and Strabane District Council spokesperson confirmed: “The Museum is scheduled for completion in 2019.

“The Maritime Museum planned for the city and region is expected to be the only museum and archive of its kind in Ireland.”

The Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) last year took the drastic step of terminating the contract of ILEX, the company responsible for the regeneration of Ebrington early, concerned at the slow progress on the iconic site. That has now been followed by the three-year delay in the development of the Maritime Museum.

The Council spokesperson said that securing adequate funding for the £11.3 million development was the reason for the latest delay.

“The dates for the project were reviewed in order to allow Council and key stakeholders to fully develop proposals and secure funding for the project,

“The estimated cost for the project is £11.3 million with funding from Council, TNI and the Heritage Lottery Fund.”

Asked about the Legacy Plan to designate 2016 as Maritime City, the Council responded: “Derry City and Strabane District Council said that the new museum will focus on emigration from Derry Port and the role the city played in the Second World War when it was used as a naval base.

“The Museum will be a celebration of the city’s maritime heritage and be an important public resource that will help locals and visitors alike to understand, explore and appreciate the enormous influence the River Foyle and its wider connections have had on the region.

“It will bring to life the city’s rich maritime heritage and allow us to provide access to the city’s archive and genealogical collections.”

Ilex announced in 2013 that work on Building 49 on the museum had been due to begin by 2015, but that deadline has since been missed. The Council spokesman added: “A specialist interpretative design team has been appointed to continue with the ongoing programme of consultation and assessment of the site, which includes Buildings 45/46 and 49 at Ebrington.

“The Museum will be a Derry City and Strabane District Council owned and run facility.

“The Council is continuing to work in partnership with a number of key stakeholders and funders to develop this important project for the city and district.”