Sinn Féin Tourism Spokesperson Phil Flanagan MLA has questioned why the Tourism Minister has been invisible on the closure of the Exploris aquarium, which attracts over 100,000 visitors a year.
Mr Flanagan, who is the Deputy Chair of the Assembly's Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee was speaking ahead of tonight’s meeting of Ards Borough Council, where the DUP majority council is expected to approve the closure of Exploris.
Mr Flanagan said:
“The closure of the Exploris
centre would be a huge loss to the local economy and those who depend on it for
passing trade in the Strangford area. The aquarium attracts 100,000 people a
“The long term impact of this disgraceful decision will be the closure of a number of businesses in Portaferry and £3 million lost to the local economy every year.
“Despite this striking economic impact the Enterprise, Trade & Investment Minister Arlene Foster, who has responsibility for the tourism, has been invisible.
“The closure of such a centre if it were in the Titanic quarter might very well grab the minister’s attention but as its based in Portaferry and her DUP council colleagues have set their minds towards closing it, we have heard nothing from the Minister.
“The economic decisions of the DUP over recent months have been mind-boggling. Despite holding the two main economic briefs on the Executive we have seen the refusal to go ahead with the Peace Centre and now DUP councilors advocating the closure of a very successful tourism centre.
“The council debate tonight is on the future of Exploris. There is still time for the Minister with responsibility for tourism to make an intervention.”