Press Release

Nomadic Restoration Could Cost Taxpayers £7 Million

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Thursday, 12 November 2009

Reference: PAC 04/09/10

Restoring the historic SS Nomadic could cost the taxpayer £7 million. That’s the message from the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee which today launched a report on the acquisition and restoration of the SS Nomadic.

The SS Nomadic, which was built by Harland & Wolff in Belfast in 1911, carried passengers to the RMS Titanic in April 1912. In January 2006, the historic vessel was purchased at auction by the Department of Social Development for €250,000.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Paul Maskey MLA, Chairperson of the Committee, said: When the Nomadic was purchased, the Department acknowledged that it was getting involved in areas in which it had very little experience.

“This inexperience was demonstrated by unforeseen costs that the Department incurred up to December 2008, including £650,000 on transportation, essential restoration for the vessel and providing financial assistance to the SS Nomadic Charitable Trust.

“The Department has told the Committee it would not fund the costs of restoration – that was a matter for the Trust who have so far secured £3.6 million towards the cost of restoration. However, over 90 per cent of this has come from public funds.

“The Trust is currently preparing a Conservation Management Plan which will set out, in much greater detail, the costs associated with completing this project.

“We genuinely hope that they are successful in delivering a value for money project, but that remains to be seen. The Committee recognises that the Trust is a voluntary organisation staffed mainly by part-time workers and enthusiasts who were keen to see progress on the ship. However, these are challenging times. Preserving our heritage is important, but not at any cost.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:
  1. The Department currently estimates the cost of restoring the Nomadic to be in the range of £5 to £7 million.
  2. The SS Nomadic Charitable Trust was established in October 2006. The Department actively encouraged the establishment of the Trust to take forward the restoration and ongoing maintenance of the vessel. The Trust has successfully lobbied to have the Nomadic included in the Core Collection of the National Historic Ships Register- a register of vessels considered to be of eminent importance in the UK.
  3. Responsibility for the restoration of the Nomadic lies with the Trust. Despite plans to transfer ownership of the Nomadic to the Trust, the vessel continues to be a Departmental asset.
  4. In the Committee’s view the Department and Trust must continue to create and maintain effective relationships with those progressing the Titanic Quarter and the Titanic Signature Projects in order to maximise their impact on the Nomadic.
  5. In taking evidence, the Committee focused on two key areas. These were:
    • Departmental oversight of the Trust; and
    • Fundraising, progressing the project for centenary celebrations and maximising visitor potential.
  6. Standing Orders under Section 60(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 have provided for the establishment of the Public Accounts Committee (the Committee). The main statutory function of the Committee is to consider accounts and the reports by the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland (C&AG) laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly.
  7. The C&AG is head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) and is empowered to investigate any area of expenditure and has a statutory right of access to all files and papers in Departments and public bodies.

The PAC Committee members are:-

Alliance

Mr Trevor Lunn

Democratic Unionist Party

Mr Jim Shannon 6


Mr Jonathan Craig


Mr David Hilditch 7,10


Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson 3,4,5,9

Sinn Fein

Mr Paul Maskey (Chairperson) 2


Mr Mitchel McLaughlin

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Mr John Dallat
Mr Patsy McGlone 1,8

Ulster Unionist Party

Mr Roy Beggs (Deputy Chairperson)

Progressive Unionist Party

Ms Dawn Purvis

1 With effect from 04 March 2008 Mr Thomas Burns replaced Mr Patsy McGlone.
2 With effect from 20 May 2008 Mr Paul Maskey replaced Mr John O'Dowd.
3 With effect from 1 October 2007 Mr Mickey Brady replaced Mr Willie Clarke.
4 With effect from 21 January 2008 Mr Ian McCrea replaced Mr Mickey Brady.
5 With effect from Tuesday 27 May 08 Mr Jim Wells replaced Mr Ian McCrea.
6 With effect from Monday, 15 September 08 Mr Jim Shannon replaced Mr David Hilditch.
7 With effect from Monday, 15 September 08 Mr George Robinson replaced Mr Simon Hamilton.
8 With effect from 29 June 2009, Mr Patsy McGlone replaced Mr Thomas Burns.
9 with effect from 18 September 2009 Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson replaced Mr Jim Wells.
10 with effect from 18 September 2009 Mr David Hilditch replaced Mr George Robinson.

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