AN SDLP councillor has expressed his shock after a blaze ripped through an historic building in Belfast city centre that is home to a number of arts organisations. 

Firefighters were called to the Old Cathedral Building in the Cathedral Quarter at around 5.37am on Monday. The incident remains ongoing with eight Fire Appliances, a Command Support Unit, two Aerial Appliances, 56 firefighters and 5 Officers in attendance. 

Councillor Carl Whyte attended the scene of the fire on Monday morning. 

“The fire at the Old Cathedral Building has caused significant disruption in Belfast on Monday morning as firefighters tackle the blaze," he said.

"My thoughts are with the many businesses and organisations who use office space in the building and those in the surrounding area who have been impacted by the fire. 

“I visited the site of the fire on Monday morning to offer my support to those affected and to establish if any help was needed in the interim.

"Understandably those who use this space are very distressed and temporary accommodation is available for businesses at the Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District. 

“This is one of the most historic parts of our city centre and it’s devastating to see this building damaged as a result of this blaze. There has been much discussion about the need to revive this part of our city in recent months and this is the last thing the area needs. 

“I’d like to pay tribute to the work of the fire service who have been working tirelessly at the scene from the early hours of Monday morning.

"The council will work with all those who were based at the building to find emergency accommodation as soon as possible and to address the fallout from this fire.” 

The building is home to a number of arts groups and organisations, including Digital Arts Studios and Excalibur Press.

North Belfast MP John Finucane said news of the blaze in the Old Cathedral Building will be a blow for the many local, independent businesses and creatives and artists located there. 

“The fire has caused disruption to the area and businesses, while firefighters assess the safety of the building," he said.

“Emergency services are at the scene and responding and I would urge the public to be cautious and to assist the emergency services in whatever way possible."