A decision on whether to shut one of Northern Ireland’s top tourist attractions was put on temporary hold on Wednesday night.
At a full meeting of Ards Borough Councill a DUP motion to defer a decision for two months was passed.
The council had been expected to vote on whether to shut its ratepayer funded Exploris Aquarium or keep it open.
The popular attraction – which draws in 100,000 visitors a year – employs 18 people and costs £600,000 to run per annum.
But the staff are now getting that sinking feeling after a take-over deal with a private firm collapsed over pension costs.
The council’s development committee recommended last week that the aquarium should be shut and sold.
Alliance MLA Kieran McCarthy said the DUP was the driving force behind the closure plans.
Committee chair and DUP councillor Trevor Cummings said the level of money needed to keep the centre open was “not sustainable in this economic climate”.
However, his party did a U-turn on shutting it immediately, instead putting it on the long finger for two months.
Earlier this week, a political row erupted between the Alliance Party and UKIP’s only MLA David McNarry.
Kieran McCarthy MLA said Mr McNarry described under threat Exploris Aquarium’s location as “the back end of nowhere” and the venue as “a fancy plaything for anoraks”.
Mr McCarthy, who represents the Strangford constituency, is opposed to a decision by a Ards Borough Council committee that recommends Portaferry-based Exploris should be closed.
Said the Alliance MLA: “The comments made by David McNarry MLA are totally shocking and I am calling on him to withdraw these outrageous remarks immediately.
“This is not the first time Mr McNarry has referred to Portaferry in such offensive terms and he must apologise for the shocking and embarrassing way he has treated the concerns of his constituents.
“Portaferry is a fantastic location, with warm and friendly people always ready to welcome visitors.
“They need public representatives willing to support them at every opportunity, not those who laugh and dismiss them on a whim.
“It is obvious David McNarry only cares about one area of the constituency and I must question his dedication to everyone in Strangford when he is prepared to let another source of tourist revenue be so easily taken away,” he added.