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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Row over cathedral development
About 28,000 visitors are expected at St Anne's Cathedral
About 28,000 visitors are expected at St Anne's Cathedral
A row has erupted after a senior clergyman sharply criticised the pace of tourist development in the heart of Belfast.

The Dean of Belfast, Houston McKelvey, accused the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure of not doing enough to promote the Cathedral Quarter.

He made the comments during a Thought for the Day slot on BBC Radio Ulster on Friday.

Dr McKelvey, who is the head of St Anne's Cathedral, said the cathedral welcomed 28,000 visitors every year and deserved more support from local government.

"From my daily experience over the past two years, it's no wonder to me that the judges did not accept Belfast as their City of Culture," he said.

"Some day the city council might actually mark in a definitive way the limits of the so-called Cathedral Quarter.

"The locals, never mind the tourists, do not know whether they are in or out of it and I daresay not even God knows when the Department of Culture and Arts will actually get round to erecting the proposed arts centre, which is the key major new development for the Cathedral Quarter's future."

He later hit out at the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

"We've never received any assistance whatsoever in terms of advice from the tourist board," he said.

Dean of Belfast Houston McKelvey
Dean of Belfast Houston McKelvey is critical of the pace of development

"That's considering we submitted a very extensive professionally prepared proposal about the development of our tourist interpretive facilities.

"I'm not objecting to the fact that by them exercising certain criteria that we don't receive money, but I certainly expect an agency like that to have an awareness about feedback.

"If we're not very careful, all we'll have here is a Cathedral Quarter in name only."

The Tourist Board's Jim Perry expressed disappointment at the dean's remarks.

"This morning we did make contact with the dean's office," he said.

"We've offered to set up a meeting to talk, not just about the specific application they referred to, but also to look at other ways in which we could support the efforts that are being made to improve St Anne's Cathedral."

He said the cathedral was a significant and important tourist attraction, "not just for Belfast, but for the whole of Northern Ireland".

The dean's call for signs showing directions to the cathedral quarter has been backed by Michael McGimpsey, the former minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure.




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