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Belfast's plans for Titanic memorial are tip of the iceberg

A tourist in southern Italy, when asked where he came from, replied "Dublin". "Ah yes," said the local, "that's where the Titanic was built."

Belfast -- where it was built -- has a recognition problem when it comes to history's most famous shipwreck, concedes Alan Clarke, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

But all that is meant to change in the next two years. April 2012 will mark the centenary of the tragic collision with the iceberg.

Cobh -- the ship's last port of call -- will join Southampton, where it was berthed, and Liverpool, where it was registered, in the commemorations. Belfast is determined to outdo them all.

It has more physical mementos of the ship. Most of the great Harland & Wolff shipyard is gone, but Titanic's dry dock -- then the largest in the world -- is still there, along with the pumphouse which drained it and the slipway on which the ship was launched.

By 2012 there will be much more -- particularly the "Signature Project" building, designed to look like the prow of a ship, a hotel based and a museum in the H&W drawing hall where all the great ships were designed.

There is even one of the Titanic's predecessors -- SS Nomadic. It miraculously survived for more than a century and a £7m (€7.9m) restoration is promised, though not yet delivered.

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All of this is part of the massive Titanic Quarter redevelopment, where £7bn is supposed to be invested over 25 years.

The property crash has stalled things, but not stopped them, with new planning permissions for £500m worth of projects.

"The important thing is to make sure it's not a building site in 2012," says Mr Clarke. "We intend using this opportunity to make Belfast one of the places which visitors to Ireland feel they want to see."

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