A fire which ravaged part of a historic house in Co Down is “bad news and a sad day for heritage” according to Environment Minister Alex Attwood.
Mourne House in Kilkeel was badly damaged in the fire which broke out on Saturday, requiring 80 firefighters to attend the scene.
Part of the roof of collapsed on the mansion, which has been on the market for some time. The estate is the ancestral home of the Kilmorey family and was valued at £3.5m.
Mr Attwood said the fire is a lesson for all in the importance of heritage sights.
“The fire at Mourne House is bad news and a sad day for heritage,” he said. “This listed property is a great example of the scale of our built heritage. DoE has worked with the property owners to preserve and restore the property in the past. I have asked for an early report on what we could do now.
“I want to acknowledge the work yesterday, first of the Fire Service and second the NIEA. As the news of the fire emerged, NIEA provided information on and plans of the building - held by DoE following listed grant approvals - to the Fire Service to help their efforts.
“This terrible fire should confirm to all of us that our heritage is great and needs help and protection. That is why I have held heritage summits over the last 20 months.
“It led to more warning letters to owners of heritage properties about their responsibilities, more action by them as a result and more Urgent Works Notices than in the previous 38 years. The Executive responded too with the welcome increase last Autumn in listed grant aid and more joint efforts by the police, DoE and others to deal with heritage crime. A Heritage-led Development Summit is also scheduled for 19 June which is timely given yesterday’s untimely news