THE National Museum of the Royal Navy has told Northern Ireland ministers it will bring HMS Caroline to Portsmouth if officials fail to decide on her future in Belfast.
The Portsmouth museum, which owns the historic warship, has warned Stormont: ‘If you don’t want Caroline, we will take her back to England.’
Estimates suggest it could cost £5m to bring Caroline up to standard, and a further £250,000 a year to maintain her. But Professor Dominic Tweddle, director-general of the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), warns she may end up being scrapped if Stormont doesn’t reach a solution by July 31.
In an open letter to ministers, he said: ‘For three years the NMRN has been engaging with Northern Ireland authorities to broker a solution for Caroline which keeps her in Belfast.
‘While there have been expressions of enthusiasm, there has been little action.’
He added: ‘We cannot allow the last survivor of the Grand Fleet and the last survivor of Jutland — the greatest big gun naval battle of all time — to perish ignominiously.’
Northern Ireland Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said she was seeking an ‘urgent meeting’ with the MoD to discuss the ship’s future.
She said: ‘HMS Caroline has been berthed in Belfast since 1924. I therefore believe that the ship should stay in Belfast and be restored.’