Here’s an interesting (unintended) consequence of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) picked up by the eagle eye of the Great Wee Azoo, and how a public asset inadvertently fell in to the hands of a private company. It all began when he noticed the last remaining wall of the old Millfield Tech was wrapped in a protective covering.
Under a Freedom of Information request, I contacted BIFHE to inquire after the mural and discovered that the Institute made an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £44,500 funding to remove the mural from the old Millfield site and donate it to the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. However, according to BIFHE, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum was unable to give any guarantees about when the mural might be placed on public display (a condition for funding imposed by the Heritage Lottery Fund) and the funding was withdrawn in February 2007.
Meanwhile, John Eastwood and Sons Ltd stepped into the picture and claimed the mural under a salvage clause in a demolition contract they had with Northwin. BIFHE initially defended Eastwood’s legal challenge. However, following protracted negotiations and legal advice the institute reluctantly conceded ownership.
The mural, once a public asset and part of Belfast’s artistic heritage, is thought to be worth around £250,000 in the right location.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty