Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Missing plaque almost sinks Belfast Titanic event

Crowds of tourists wait forthe opening of the new Titanic Belfast tourism project to the public. Photo Colm O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press

As the hours counted down to the grand opening of Titanic Belfast, the operators were confident they had thought of everything - they hadn't.

During communications with Stormont officials on Friday it became apparent there was something missing - a plaque to mark the next day's visit by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

Cue mild panic and an urgent call to a local engraver to see if he could knock something up in a few hours.

Thankfully the craftsman was able to deliver at short notice and the plaque was hastily screwed onto the foyer wall just in time for the arrival of the first and deputy first ministers.

Meanwhile, with millions of public money invested in the signature project, the operators are understandably keen to head off any risk of future losses.

The policy extends right down to the crockery in the galley.

While the White Star Line Titanic logo has been stamped on the white plates and cups that will be used in the plush banqueting suite on the top floors, the salt and pepper shakers have been left bare.

The move wasn't to save on initial outlay, but to avoid incurring further expense down the line.

It was deemed that the condiment holders were just the right size to fit in the pockets of well lubricated diners keen for a memento of their visit to the 1912 themed ballroom.

Surely only the most emboldened of guests would dare stick anything larger under their jacket on the way out?

The 1,000-seater two-level venue also boasts an almost exact replica of the wooden staircase that was in the first class dining room on board the doomed ship - a feature made famous by the 1997 blockbuster on the disaster.

But the reason it's 'almost' exact is because designers had to make another concession to the requirements of a publicly owned facility.

The 21st century version of the staircase has been fitted with brass handrails to comply with health and safety regulations.

The same said regulations are understood to have thwarted initial plans to mark the opening of the attraction by firing two flares into the Belfast sky - reminiscent of the event that heralded the Titanic's launch in 1911.

"The flares were thought to be too dangerous so they just went for the standard ribbon cutting," one insider revealed.

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