Future of First World War ship still in doubt

HMS Caroline
HMS Caroline

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URGENT talks are being held in Belfast to determine the fate of HMS Caroline.

The future of the decommissioned First World War cruiser – which has been based in the Northern Ireland capital since the 1920s – hangs in the balance.

Negotiations are being led by the Portsmouth-based National Museum of the Royal Navy, which was tasked by the MoD in 2009 to save the ship from the scrapyard.

But despite three years of talks, still no deal has been done to keep her in Belfast.

The ship might be put on display at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard if Stormont ministers are unable to pledge the £4m needed to turn Caroline into a tourist attraction.

Captain John Rees, chief of staff at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, has flown to Belfast for talks this week.

He told The News: ‘We still don’t have a deal with Northern Ireland.

‘The reserve position is if we can’t get a deal in Northern Ireland, we would like to take the ship to Portsmouth. How easy it is to do that though is another matter entirely.’

The MoD had set a deadline of August 1 for a final decision on the 98-year-old vessel which is the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland. But this was extended for more talks.

A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment said: ‘The minister Arlene Foster and her officials have been closely involved in discussions on the issue of HMS Caroline but at this point a decision on the way forward has not yet been finalised.’