With only four weeks until the completion of the building work, this morning's fires at Union Theological College must be a real blow to their plans to expand the training they offer. UTC is the main training facility for Presbyterian ministers, but also serves theology students of all dominations studying at Queen's University. Increasingly, it also offers day and evening Christian training and youth work courses to lay people.
UTV and BBC news reports point to the fire service attending a blaze on the first floor around 2.30am, before returning at 7am to deal with a much larger and more sustained blaze. Interviews with college staff and the management committee talk of their "devastation" at the damage done by the fire, and their relief that there was no loss of life. While one wing has been guttted, the majority of the rest of the building is believed to be unharmed.
"Two firefighters were injured by molten metal inside the premises and were given first aid at the scene. The fire is being treated as suspicious."
Historically, from 1921 until 1932, the newly formed Parliament of Northern Ireland met in the building's Gamble Library while Stormont was being constructed.