Belfast Telegraph

Titanic Belfast bosses refuse to climb down over staircase dispute

By Anna Maguire and Lesley-Anne McKeown

Titanic Belfast bosses are refusing to budge on a controversial policy barring the public from the grand staircase in Belfast’s landmark new building.

People visiting Titanic Belfast have so far been unable to see the oak stairway — which replicates the Titanic’s grand staircase.

There was fury at the beginning of the week when JLS frontman Marvin Humes and fiancée Rochelle Wiseman from The Saturdays tweeted a photograph of themselves posing in front of the feature — prompting criticism of the building’s management for allowing celebrities special access.

The building’s architect and one of the craftsmen who built the staircase have also called the policy into question.

Despite the controversy, a spokeswoman from Titanic Belfast insisted that the only planned public access to the staircase would be on Sundays.

She said: “The near-replica of Titanic’s grand staircase is the focal point for the hosting of formal functions, parties and conferences in the Titanic Suite on the top floor of Titanic Belfast.

“Given the huge success of the venue, with over 200 functions already booked this year, it is, unfortunately, not possible to mix both public visits and the hosting of functions. We are, however, planning to provide opportunities to view the staircase on selected Sundays in May and June.

“The public tour of the galleries which follows the ‘journey’ of Titanic does not currently include access to the grand staircase, but as with all operational issues, it is subject to ongoing review.”

Una Reilly, chairwoman of Belfast Titanic Society, said she believes everyone will get the chance to see the feature eventually.

Meanwhile, events will be taking place in Belfast and across the world to mark the Titanic centenary.

Exactly 100 years ago more than 1,500 people died when the liner struck an iceberg and sank off the coast of Newfoundland.

And, while there are events marking the important centenary in almost every port from Cobh to Nova Scotia, the eyes of the world will be on Belfast to see how the birthplace of the ill-fated White Star liner remembers Titanic.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to watch a gala commemorative ceremony being broadcast live from the Waterfront Hall tonight.

The show, hosted by BBC veteran John Humphrys, will also be seen by thousands more on the big screen in the grounds of Belfast City Hall.

“What is being done is respectful,” said Ms Reilly. “We are all aware this weekend is when we will commemorate those who died — all 1,512 of them.”

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