‘Unbelievable’ decision over £25k

A BUSHMILLS councillor says it is ‘unbelievable’ that for the sake of £25,000 the North-Eastern Education & Library Board (NEELB) is closing the Causeway School Museum.

Cllr Robert McIlroy (DUP) was speaking at a meeting of Moyle Council in Ballycastle where said he understood the figure of around £25,000 was the running costs for the museum.

Cllr McIlroy said: “The real good that it does for children’s education, to think that the NEELB would even contemplate closing for £25,000 is unbelievable.”

Cllr McIlroy made his remarks during a presentation from Chris Bailey, the director of the Northern Ireland Museums Council.

He asked Mr Bailey if the Museums Council would have the ‘clout’ to get education chiefs to reconsider.

Mr Bailey said: “Do we have the clout? Probably not as much as councillors do.”

But he said they would be delighted to work with Moyle Council in combating the closure plans.

The Causeway School Museum - which has been operating as a living history experience since 1987 - is to close at the end of June.

It was given in trust to the North Eastern Education and Library Board to be used for educational purposes.

However, the board said it cannot continue to run the service due to budget constraints.

The school, which is located directly beside the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre, was opened in 1915.

It was built by the Macnaghten family in memory of Lord Edward Macnaghten.

The school was only open for about 50 years and after the last pupils left in 1962 the building fell into disrepair.

But since it reopened in the late 1980s, thousands of school children have been able to visit and learn about the past.

Children are encouraged to research and design their own costumes before arriving at the school - they take on the name of a pupil who once sat in the classroom and instead of bringing a modern lunchbox, they are advised to bring food more fitting to the early 20th century such as jam and bread or a soda farl.

The NEELB said it costs between £25,000 and £30,000 to run the school and with budgets so stretched, they need to focus on funding core services.

Ray Gilbert, the board’s senior education officer, said: “Regrettably, we can’t continue to operate as we have done because of budget constraints, but we are actively seeking to see if someone else can take on the building so it can remain open.

“We have a lease on the building until 2026 but there may be a way to extricate ourselves from that if a suitable alternative tenant can be found.”