French MPs to agree Notre-Dame restoration as controversy swirls

PARIS (AFP) – French MPs were yesterday set to approve a law on the reconstruction of Notre-Dame, three months after flames ravaged the great Paris cathedral, but with the rebuilding process still mired in controversy.

The cathedral, part of a UNESCO world heritage site covering the banks of the River Seine in Paris, lost its gothic spire, roof and precious artefacts in the April 15 blaze.

Tourists in Paris are still heading to Notre-Dame to take photos and selfies, with the horrific fire only increasing its global fame, although they cannot access the esplanade in front of the building let alone the edifice itself.

But the passing of the Reconstruction Bill – after months of parliamentary squabbles – marks only the start of the hugely controversial and sensitive rebuilding process.

President Emmanuel Macron has said the reconstruction should be completed within five years, a deadline some experts see as too ambitious.

And he created an ever greater furore by suggesting the toppled spire could be replaced by a steeple with a contemporary touch.

The “aim is to give Notre-Dame a restoration appropriate for the place it has in the hearts of the French people and in the entire world,” said Culture Minister Franck Riester.

The Bill aims to organise the 850 million euros (USD954 million) in donations which were pledged from individual, corporate and private donors after the blaze and to coordinate the painstaking restoration work.