Northern Ireland

Executive approves £900,000 funding to save aquarium

Exploris
Image caption Exploris costs Ards Council £600,000 a year to maintain

The Northern Ireland Executive has approved funding to save the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry, County Down.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton said £900,000 capital funding would be earmarked for the aquarium, which had been under threat of closure by its owner, Ards Borough Council.

Exploris houses marine exhibitions and a seal sanctuary on the shores of Strangford Lough.

The council said that the £600,000 annual cost of running it was too high.

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said it was "excellent news for all the supporters of Exploris, both near and far, and particularly for the people of Portaferry"

He said locals had "fought a valiant campaign" to keep the tourist attraction open and executive approval was "a vital step forward" to reverse the council decision.

In October 2013, the chairman of the Stormont Enterprise Committee, Patsy McGlone of the SDLP, said it would be "madness" to close the aquarium

He was speaking after a fact-finding visit to Exploris with his committee colleagues.

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