Sink Titanic project and we may save enough for stadium
The SDLP, in its recent examination of how spending could be freed up in the Northern Ireland economy, has suggested that in terms of Belfast's Titanic Signature Project ‘Belfast Harbour Commissioners ... should put £30m more into the Titanic project'.
Could I go a step further and ask for a review of the entire project, potentially freeing up the earmarked £97m for other projects which would benefit the people of Belfast.
With the project quashed, perhaps the council could get the land cheaply for a national stadium?
Northern Ireland, as with the majority of the world, is currently in the grips of a recession that shows no end. As cited by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), there is a ‘strong correlation between the growth of GDP and the growth of the aggregated international tourism demand'.
This implies that tourism will be adversely affected by the recession. The latest Tourist Board barometer finds that ‘the proportion of managers (in hotels and caravan and camping bases) anticipating a downturn in overseas business next year outnumbers those that expect growth by a factor of two to one. Overseas trips to the Republic for January and February are 4.3% down on 2008. The seasonally adjusted number of overseas residents' visits to the UK was down 12% for October to December 2008 in comparison with the same period in 2007.
Coupled with the London Olympics and the rival Southampton Titanic project which opens in 2012, it puts a huge question mark over the viability of the Belfast project.
Perhaps the NITB could update and release its estimates for visitors to the project, bearing in mind these factors, or will they continue in the excessive optimism that blighted the Millennium Dome (or even our own Navan Centre)?
Could the Tourist Board explain why Southampton, which will benefit from the 2012 Olympics, got Heritage Lottery Funding while the Belfast Project did not?
Or perhaps the likes of DETI, the Belfast Harbour Commissioners or even the Belfast City Council could exhibit due diligence in their spending of public money.