Friday, 13 November 2009

No iceberg in sight

BELFAST’S claim to fame – apart from the Troubles – was a ship that sank. The Titanic went down with 1,000 souls in 1912, thereby forever making shipbuilding here synonymous with disaster, despite the Harland and Wolff being a world leader in the industry at the time.

The very name Titanic conjures up images of heroism and tragedy, hubris gone awry and selfishness and selflessness sitting in the same lifeboat.

But, with the imagery so strong the Titanic name has, as has oft been said, got global tourist potential.

That makes it all the more amazing that the saga of the SS Nomadic, the tender that brought well-heeled passengers to the doomed liner, is making, with the usual Northern Ireland zeal, a drama out of a crisis.

In short, the SS Nomadic was rescued from the sea’s version of the knacker’s yard, and brought back to Belfast, where it was originally built.

It has languished ever since, with funding rows and the potential for a tourism bonanza in 2012 – the anniversary of the iceberg incident – and a bill of £7m being touted to refurbish the Nomadic.

The £7m bill to taxpayers may seem a little steep, but would it be better to get it done rather than this constant uncertainty. In other words, let the Executive do something that will cost a bit, but have benefits for all.

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