Staff at floating Royal Navy museum HMS Caroline face redundancy as consultants brought in

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REDUNDANCIES have hit a floating Royal Navy museum which may be moved from Belfast to Portsmouth – as consultants are called in to help determine its future.

HMS Caroline, which fought in the First World War and is run by the Portsmouth-based National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), was closed in March due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The closure means that as furlough ends, a total of 10 visitor engagement staff face redundancy unless other roles are found within the NMRN.

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Last month, increasing concerns about the ship’s future led to speculation that it could be towed to Portsmouth unless the attraction received renewed support from government of Northern Ireland.

Staff at National Museum of the Royal Navy attraction HMS Caroline face redundancy.Staff at National Museum of the Royal Navy attraction HMS Caroline face redundancy.
Staff at National Museum of the Royal Navy attraction HMS Caroline face redundancy.

Excess costs to maintain the 106-year-old warship had been covered by the devolved government under an agreement that expired earlier this year – and now the government has contracted external consultants ‘to undertake a study to examine the future operations for the ship’, according to a spokeswoman from the NMRN.

Commenting on the redundancies, the spokeswoman said: ‘With no agreement between NMRN and (The Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland) in place, we have had to make the hugely regrettable decision to make our team there redundant on the 31 October in conjunction with the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.’

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Working with the DfE has been ‘extremely difficult’ according to Dr Tim Schadla-Hall, the chairman of the HMS Caroline Preservation Company, who also has concerns about the state of the historic collections on board the warship.

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He said: ‘It’s been extremely difficult to understand what the DfE is doing – communication has not been good.

‘We have no idea what is happening.’

But the Northern Irish government had offered to cover salary costs under a new agreement, according to a spokeswoman from DfE.

The DfE spokeswoman added: ‘NMRN agreed to provide an oversight and maintenance role during the period of temporary closure and the department confirmed that it would meet agreed associated costs.

‘The minister also agreed to cover the salary costs of HMS Caroline’s staff until 31 December 2020, following the cessation of the Job Retention Scheme on October 31.

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‘However the legal terms to underpin this period have not yet been agreed with NMRN.’

HMS Caroline, a light cruiser that took part in the Battle of Jutland, has been docked in Belfast since 1924.

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