News Letter
13 April 2012

THE area where the Titanic was built by Belfast’s working men a century ago is in danger of becoming “a foreign country” to many of their descendants, a former Presbyterian moderator has warned.

The Rev Dr Norman Hamilton said that an area which has long been associated with the working man in Belfast could become somewhere only accessible to tourists and the well-off.

Writing in today’s News Letter, the north Belfast minister says that Belfast’s new Titanic Quarter – with its expensive apartments, multi-national bank headquarters, gleaming visitor centre and film studio – is in danger of economically excluding many in Belfast.

Dr Hamilton stressed he wants the vast Titanic Quarter regeneration project to be successful but said that the £7 billion project could do more to welcome those at the margins of society.

“I had the privilege of standing on the fifth floor (the conference level) of the new Titanic building a few days ago and looked out across the Lough to north Belfast and my part of town,” he said.

“I couldn’t help but think that it was a very far distance for so many of my neighbours to travel if they too were to be able to stand where I was at that exact moment.

“The Titanic Quarter is no longer the natural habitat of those whose grandparents helped to build the Titanic.”

He said that Belfast Metropolitan College’s Titanic Quarter campus provided some hope that those educated there may find employment in that part of the city.

But he added: “Yet my angst has not diminished that this wonderful Titanic building and the long-term vision that has made it happen may not be fully owned by a younger generation who face long-term unemployment, and that they will see it as being in another country populated by tourists, visitors from cruise ships and conference delegates.”

The Presbyterian minister said he was concerned that almost everything in the area was commercial in nature.

Titanic Belfast chief executive Tim Husbands said in a statement: “Titanic Belfast is a massive opportunity for Northern Ireland to put itself on the international tourist map, but it’s also very much a project for the people of Belfast.

“We’ve worked hard with Belfast City Council and the Titanic Foundation to engage with schools and local communities across the city and that will be an ongoing process.

“In comparison to other attractions of this standard, Titanic Belfast is competitively priced and there is already free access to Titanic’s slipways and Titanic Belfast’s plaza.

“Public realm areas are integral to the wider Titanic Quarter development and the objective is to ‘build communities where once we built ships’.

“The aim is to develop these spaces into a new urban park which is as much part of the fabric of Belfast as City Hall is.”