Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

A promising year beckons for us all

As 2012 draws to a close and we bring in the New Year, there is much for the people of Northern Ireland to look forward to in 2013. Some of the major events will include the World Police and Fire Games in Belfast, the year-long celebration of the UK City of Culture in Londonderry, the 400th anniversary of the granting of the Charter of Incorporation to Belfast in 1613 and, of course, the G8 summit at Fermanagh's Lough Erne resort.

The past year has also been eventful, and has brought much good news to this Province, despite the bad headlines generated in December by the unfortunate row over the reduced flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall, and the violent street demonstrations.

Indeed the fall-out from such anti-social behaviour, with the resultant loss to traders, restaurateurs, hoteliers and others, has depressed all of us so much we may be in danger of overlooking the good events which took place here in 2012.

These included the opening of Titanic Belfast and the huge influx of tourists from many countries to sample a truly world-class visitor attraction. The commemoration of the centenary of the Titanic in April was also marked with great dignity and due solemnity. It not only honoured those who died in 1912 in one of history's greatest sea tragedies, but it also reminded the world that when the Titanic left Belfast, she was a tribute to the technological skills of Harland and Wolff a hundred years ago.

In June the Queen, with Prince Philip, visited Northern Ireland as part of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee, and in a packed schedule of engagements she visited Enniskillen where one of the greatest atrocities of the Troubles took place. In so doing, she underlined, in a cross-community visit, the considerable progress which has been made in recent years.

On a sporting level this has been another successful year for Northern Ireland sportsmen and women with Rory McIlroy adding to his already enormous reputation by winning another Masters and the efforts of our Olympians lifting our spirits, even if they were overlooked in the New Year Honours List.

And this impetus will most certainly continue in Londonderry during the UK Year of Culture, when the many thousands of visitors and myriad attractions are expected to generate £500m for Derry while Belfast is set for a boost in August with the 2013 World Police and Fire Games which will attract 25,000 visitors including 10,000 competitors from 70 countries in 57 sports.

Realistically, however, there is much still to be done politically in 2013, particularly to solve the flags and parades problems, and also on the security front. However on the eve of another New Year, this is the time to move on with confidence and hope, to recognise how far we all have come despite the setbacks, and to look forward to the very best of 2013.

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