Northern Ireland jail where Republican inmates staged a hunger strike during the Troubles is to be turned into a luxury hotel

It was the scene of hangings, hunger strikes and incarcerated prisoners during the Troubles.

And now Armagh Gaol will undergo a £23 million transformation into a hotel, spa and apartments.

The listed historic former prison was constructed in 1780 and closed in 1986. A blueprint worth millions for its transformation has been approved by Armagh City Council.

Armagh Gaol at night

New beginning: Historic Armagh Gaol is set to receive a makeover

Armagh Gaol interior shot

History weighs heavy around: An interior shot of the former prison

The former prison was the site of hangings and housed republican female prisoners including the Price sisters who were serving life for London car bombings.

It's also the site of a protest by republican inmates demanding political status and where three women took part in the 1980 hunger strikes, including Mairead Farrell who was shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in 1988.

In 1979 prison officer Agnes Wallace, 40, was shot dead and three colleagues were injured in a Provisional IRA gun and grenade attack outside the prison.

Dominating the city centre, the building attracted attention across the UK a few years ago when it competed in the BBC Restoration programme.

Given planning permission by Armagh City Council, the redevelopment plans - which will create 320 jobs - include a hotel and spa, seven shops and 32 apartments.

According to the BBC, ensuite rooms will consist of three cells and the hotel's decor will incorporate aspects of the prison.

It is understood that there will also be a heritage centre.

Stormont Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: 'This is a huge redevelopment scheme which will benefit all of Armagh and the surrounding areas for many years.

'It will contribute to the tourism potential of the Armagh area, providing much needed tourism accommodation within the city.'

Armagh's attractions include the Navan Centre and Fort - an important archaeological site, a wealth of Christian heritage and a planetarium.

Aidan Mallon, Property Services Manager at Armagh council, at the former jail which is set to fill its cells with luxury hops and apartments

Aidan Mallon, of Armagh council, at the former jail which is set to fill its cells with luxury hops and apartments

The prison - scene of hangings and hunger strikes - will now house a hotel and spa in its dramatic overhaul

The prison - scene of hangings and hunger strikes - will now house a hotel and spa in its dramatic overhaul

But not everyone was pleased to hear about the plans.

The DoE received 33 letters of objection to the proposal and two objection petitions with 96 signatures. One letter of support was received.

The applicants behind the development are Trevor Osborne Property Group, Armagh City and District Council and the Prince's Regeneration Trust.

Meanwhile, over in Belfast, another of Northern Ireland's historic attractions is taking shape.

The First World War's last surviving battleship is plotting a course to become a floating museum.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy are confident that HMS Caroline will be opened as a 'world class' visitor attraction ahead of the centenary of its most famous wartime engagement - the 1916 Battle of Jutland off the coast of Denmark.

HMS Caroline

Old timer: HMS Caroline is the First World War's last surviving battleship

An undated picture of the ship in its heydey

In action: An undated picture of the ship in its heydey

The derelict vessel, which is currently docked in the same Belfast shipyards where the Titanic was built, was in danger of rusting away before moves to restore it started to build up momentum last year.

The Heritage Lottery Fund today gave initial approval to a £12.2 million funding application to finance the restoration.

The museum would complement a variety of maritime attractions in Belfast's old shipyards, including the £97 million Titanic Belfast visitor attraction.

A light cruiser, weighing 3,750 tons and measuring 446 feet, HMS Caroline was part of the screening force that sailed out ahead of the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet during the Battle of Jutland to establish the position of the German battleships.

HMS Caroline

Famous location: HMS Caroline is docked in the same Belfast shipyards where the Titanic was built

Both sides sustained heavy casualties in what was the most significant clash between battleships during WWI. Britain and Germany both claimed victory.

Six years after the war ended HMS Caroline was moved from Portsmouth to Belfast to become a training vessel for local Royal Navy Reserves. Most of the rest of the fleet was decommissioned and broken up.

During World War Two, it was used as an operations headquarters for the efforts to protect the Atlantic convoys from German U-Boats.

Captain John Rees, chief of staff at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), said: 'She is a one of a kind, an iconic ship.

'The only floating survivor of all the fleets - both German and British - that fought in the First World War and the Battle of Jutland.'

Northern Ireland Tourism Minister Arlene Foster added: 'HMS Caroline has become part of the city's rich maritime heritage.

'Our ultimate aim is to transform the ship into a world-class floating museum in time for the Battle of Jutland centenary in 2016, as I believe HMS Caroline has huge potential as a visitor experience.'

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