Will Titanic legacy sink without trace?
The sinking of the Titanic, with the loss of over 1,500 lives, was one of the greatest maritime disasters. It was a tragedy that continues to strike a chord with people even now, almost a century later. It has been the subject of two major films and even the real-life search for the wreckage became a compelling documentary. There are a number of cities around the world which have large-scale exhibitions featuring the doomed liner.
Yet, here in Belfast, the birthplace of the Titanic and its sister ships in the White Star line, there is little to commemorate it. Even the monument erected in the grounds of Belfast City Hall to the tragedy has almost been obscured for the last few years within the framework of the Big Wheel. With just two years to go until the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, can the city belatedly get its act together and produce a fitting tribute to a legendary vessel?
That is a question which must hang in the air at the moment. Sure there are plans for major projects - one is a £90m signature building at the head of the slipway down which the ship slid into immortality. The Titanic's dry dock and pump house have been opened up as a visitor attraction, but that turned into something of a debacle after coaches were charged £50 per visit causing outrage. The NI Science Park, which levied the fee, said it only applied to visitors who had not pre-booked. Whatever the reason, it sent out a negative message.
We are told there is a jigsaw of Titanic-related attractions being developed in Belfast, but are they all working to the same plan? Should Arlene Foster, the Enterprise Minister, have a leading role in ensuring these projects come to fruition in time for 2012? If Northern Ireland cannot produce viable, internationally appealing attractions by that date it will be the laughing stock of the world. It would be like winning the bid for the Olympic Games and then failing to complete the stadia.