Centenary of Northern Ireland is to be marked with major events and exhibition
Plans for Northern Ireland to celebrate its 100th birthday - in four years time - are well under way, it has been revealed.
Stormont officials are being instructed to draw up detailed proposals for what is already being dubbed 'Expo 100'.
The plans include a major exhibition in Belfast and are set to echo events in 1971 when the province was a mere 50 years old.
Tourism Minister Simon Hamilton said Northern Ireland's centenary in 2021 will be a "momentous occasion".
"There is a great opportunity to not just to celebrate our rich industrial heritage but to look to the potential of business, the economy and industry in Northern Ireland," he said.
"Any celebration of Northern Ireland's 100th birthday should reflect on its great strengths and on what makes Northern Ireland a great place to live, work, visit and invest in. Sometimes we forget this, but we have a wonderful, rich and vibrant industrial heritage in this part of the world. We should be immensely proud, if we are not already, particularly of the engineering prowess of people from this part of the world, and the entrepreneurial spirit.
"(But) we have to look to the future as well. I want to see us reflect on not only our past glories but the potential of the Northern Ireland economy and industry. One thing that I will be instructing officials to take forward as part of our celebrations of 2021 borrows from a theme that was there in 1971 for our 50th anniversary which was an expo in Belfast."
Mr Hamilton said the developing proposals come against a backdrop of increasing growth in the tourism industry.
"That growth has seen record visitor levels to Northern Ireland over the last number of years. As well as local significance, the centenary will have an international significance for the many people living overseas who retain a strong connection with Northern Ireland."
Mr Hamilton added: "In recent years, we have demonstrated our prowess in showcasing Northern Ireland on the world stage, with events such as the Giro d'Italia, the MTV Music Awards, the World Police and Fire Games and the G8 summit.
"We have become known around the world for our great ambassadors such as Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke, musicians like Van Morrison and Phil Coulter, or our football team and its fans, who did so much to promote Northern Ireland's reputation during the 2016 European Championships.
"The Year of Food and Drink 2016 was also a great success, highlighting how far our restaurants and, indeed, our chefs have come over recent years."