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Launching a new era

By Staff Reporter

Barring any unforeseen icebergs, the launch of Titanic Belfast at a gala celebration on Friday and the throwing open of its doors to the public on Saturday should mark the start of a new era for Belfast.

The ambition involved in this £90m building — backed by Irish entrepreneur and Celtic’s largest shareholder Dermot Desmond among others — is not unlike that which drove the building of the world’s biggest liner in Belfast 100 years previously.

But, if truth be told, it’s an ambition and vision wholly commensurate with the peace process which has made it possible for the biggest tourist destination project ever on the island of Ireland to be located in Belfast.

Twenty years ago, with the city mired in bitter and seemingly interminable warfare, such a development would have been unimaginable.

Indeed, much of the progress made is evidenced in key decisions around the new building.

Thankfully, in a city which already has too many flags, there will be no flagpole on the Titanic Building, thus side-stepping the arguments over national colours which have been bedevilling City Hall.

And crucially, recruitment to the new facility has been entirely on merit with those of all religions and none set to welcome the first visitors on board — a step change from the Yard of old.

But most importantly, the Titanic Building will be inclusive of the entire city — not least because the nationalists of Belfast are insistent that this new quarter of our city, regardless  of its past, should be a resource for all.

It has been said that the biggest challenge facing the Titanic Belfast visitor project is to attract 400,000 visitors each year.

In our view, that’s not the most important task — and anyhow we think the building will surpass those figures. For us the real challenge will be in ensuring that Belfast continues to build the peace in a way which matches the confidence and boldness of this magnificent architectural and civic achievement.


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