Unless you have been living under a rock for the past number of weeks you would have been unable to avoid the mention of the word 'Titanic' around Belfast or any other part of the world for that matter. As we mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking, it is important not to get lost in the hype surrounding the commemoration of the disaster. We must remember the real message behind the sinking of the doomed liner, and pay tribute to the many men, women and children who lost their lives in the early hours of April 15th, 1912.
I have seen, rather shockingly over the past few weeks, a sizeable amount of 'Titanic Tat' as some have dubbed it. Tea towels, key rings, calendars, DVDs, stationery and even food an drink branded with the name 'Titanic' . While I may be lambasted by those go declare that items such as these drive tourism, profit and are useful to the economy, I personally think they are horrific reminders of the lessons we have yet to learn in the 100 years since Titanic sank.
The 1,500 people who perished needlessly on the night were the victims of profit, of the need or headlines and attention by the likes of White Star Line and it's owners. Having disregarded the ice warnings that evening as irrelevant, J. Bruce Ismay urged Titanic's crew to press on full steam ahead and reach New York a whole day ahead of schedule. it was a decision that cost more than anyone could have imagined. We must never forget those who lost their lives, and how their loss encouraged developments in sea-faring safety such as the Radio Act of 1912, the International Ice Patrol and lifeboat regulations.
With the centenary of Titanic Northern Ireland can finally showcase the level of workmanship and local talent that we had to offer in 1912, and how much more we can offer here and now as we mark the passing of an almighty vessel, a product of Belfast's own hands. We can celebrate the innovation and craftsmanship that brought the world ships such as Titanic, and her sister ships Olympic and Britannic. We can watch as the once derelict Harland and Wolff slipways become a centre of tourism and trade once again for the city and an attraction on a global scale.
Titanic Belfast, during construction in 2011
I feel now, however, that the world should move on with its fascination with the disaster and allow those who perished to finally rest in peace, away from the eyes of profiteers and those who would seek to diminish the tragedy to the front of a crisp packet (below). Belfast can finally let go of the last 100 years and move on as a city with much more to offer, and I look forward to seeing it grow and develop on an international stage.