Friday 19 October 2007

Is the Titanic a community thing?

What is it about the Titanic? For some people it seems to have assumed sacred stratus, while for others it just gets a shrug of the shoulders. Is it another one of those subtle signs that give away your 'community background', like the space between your eyes?

The whole Titanic 'industry' seems to be unionist – from the politicians pushing it, to the gushing enthusiasm for Belfast's glory days of heavy metal bashing, to the whole macho symbolism of it, to the very location of the shipyard in loyalist east Belfast.

Maybe the Titanic is a symbol of the days gone by when Belfast produced big ships for the maritime empire, and felt itself to be as British as Glasgow or Newcastle. By constantly harping on about the Titanic, the Titanic Quarter (sic), and the whole ship-building industry, maybe unionists are trying to relive, or even revive, that warm glow of Empire.

But others are less impressed. Those whose ancestors were denied jobs in the shipyard, those who were hounded out of the shipyard for being Catholic, those whose family or friends were killed by guns home-made in engineering workshops in or around the shipyards, those who just feel that the Titanic was only a ship, and a disastrously bad one too, and those who just think that money would be better spent on the present-day needs of the people rather than a shrine to past failures.

The Titanic 'industry' tried to get the public to fund an enormously expensive white elephant to 'showcase the city's maritime and industrial heritage', by creating some kind of replica in lights of the failed ship. The funding authorities (the Big Lottery Fund) decided otherwise, and turned down the proposal.

The comment of one contributor to the website spoke for many:

"Thank goodness the lottery fund saw through this east Belfast White Elephant. Wouldn’t the money be better spent on schools and hospitals instead of all this nonsense of living in the past of a sunk boat?"

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