A treasure trove of artefacts relating to Northern Ireland’s history have come out of storage for a temporary display at Stormont.
The four-week exhibition has come about after a lengthy campaign by TUV leader Jim Allister who hopes it will lead to something more permanent.
Among the items of display are a bronze relief map of Northern Ireland, an ornament stand and bell from HMS Ulster, a carved and gilded throne, an Elizabeth II coronation vase and portraits of many political figures including Lord Craigavon, the first prime minister of Northern Ireland.
Mr Allister said: “My strategy is, this is not the end, it’s the beginning of a process. Hopefully if this is a success, if it’s appreciated, then we’ll have a bit more leverage to argue with the commission that they should find a permanent display for them.
“It would be shameful if they all went away again, were put back under dust covers and to have the public pay £11,000 a year to store them as has been the case.”
He continued: “Their future quite clearly should be on public display.
“They are in the members coffee lounge on the first floor. I thought it may not have been big enough but it’s been quite well done. There’s not a huge number of the artefacts there but enough to get a taste for the artefacts that we have in storage.”
Mr Allister suggested the items were hidden away because of “the intolerance of some towards anything with a British connotation”.
He said: “While there are artefacts relating to a number of unionists figures there’s also a lot of material that is not easily labelled.
“For example the books of the civilian dead in the Second World War, the Blitz victims. Why should those be hidden away?
“I think primarily it’s Sinn Fein who don’t wish to see these artefacts on display. The sole opposition to this exhibition came from Sinn Fein.”