“in the event of a grave or catastrophic event..”

As Mark Devenport has noted on his blog, despite the BBC reporting in September 2007 that a spokesman for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister was able to state “There is no list of people who would be admitted into it”, the deputy First Minister told the Assembly yesterday – “I know absolutely nothing about a bunker in Ballymena..” However, now that the emergency bunker – built between 1987-89 at an apparent cost of £300-400million and with room for 235 people – has been brought to their attention again the Northern Ireland Executive are reportedly trying to sell it..From the Assembly’s Official Report

Mr Attwood: I have a serous question in relation to emergency planning. Will the Minister confirm whether a bunker has been constructed, allegedly in or around Ballymena, so that, in the event of a grave or catastrophic event, there would be a place of refuge?

A Member: For Junior? [Laughter.]

Mr Attwood: I suspect that more people than Junior might go to that place of refuge. [Laughter.]

In the event of a grave or catastrophic event, there would be a place of refuge for up to 300 people. Is the Minister aware that a bunker has been constructed? Did it cost between £300 million and £400 million? Is he prepared to lodge in the Assembly Library a list of the titles of the 300 people who may avail of that place of refuge? If that is true, does the Minister agree that it is preposterous, and that there are far better projects in the North on which public money could be spent?

The deputy First Minister: That sounds preposterous to me, and I hope that I am not one of those 300 people. I know absolutely nothing about a bunker in Ballymena or a list of 300 names. However, if it is a serious question — and I presume that it is — we will all be interested in hearing the answer from whoever constructed the bunker.

Mr Deputy Speaker: If there is a bunker, places in it will be allocated purely on a points system. [Laughter.]