McGlone: Exploris should not be used as a pawn in a political tug of war
Speaking during an assembly debate today Mr McGlone said:
“We can all agree on the significance of Exploris – not only in terms of its potential impact on the local economy as a tourist attraction, but also the work done by the staff on marine conservation, in the facilities to look after sick or abandoned seals from rescue to release, and its educational programmes and exhibitions.
“It was a huge disappointment to learn of Ards Borough Council’s decision to consider closing the aquarium and placing the site on the market for sale, after over 25 years as one of the top ten paying tourist attractions in Northern Ireland with around 90,000 visitors per year.
“It is also a concern that Ards Borough Council would seek to close this facility ahead of the formation of the new Local Councils, and the potential that could have for new arrangements to be put in place to secure the future of Exploris.
“My party colleague, the Minister for the Environment, has raised the issue of the future of Exploris at the Executive Committee for discussion. It seems clear that the Executive needs to work collectively to address the threat to the future of Exploris - given that there are a number of cross-Departmental interests involved.
“Until the new local government structures are up and running, it is imperative that Ards Borough Council develops a coherent plan for the future of Exploris. Executive Ministers then have a responsibility to assist in developing that plan and, where possible, to offer concrete proposals for investment and financial support to secure the future of Exploris.
“The public want political parties to take note of the economic circumstances of Exploris and the benefit to the local economy, marine conservation, tourism, and, indeed, education, of its continued operation.
“This is a test for the Executive and the political parties that control its direction. Exploris is, rightly, seen as a regional asset that should be protected and invested in for current and future generations.
“It should not be used as a pawn in a political tug-of-war – either between individual political parties, or between local and regional government.”