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Belfast: reluctant birthplace of the Titanic

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(Read caption) The Titanic sailed out of Southampton, England, in 1912.

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

 Belfast was a byword for gloom during the Troubles that spanned from the late 1960s to late 1990s, but it is experiencing a new vitality.

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Ironically this coincides with the anniversary of the tragedy of the RMS Titanic, which sank 100 years ago on April 15 with a loss of more than 1,500 lives. Belfast is set to commemorate this sad milestone with church services and other events.

The city, which tried to ignore the Titanic until recently because of misplaced guilt at her loss, is now celebrating the shipbuilding genius of the Belfast workers who made her the most advanced vessel in the world at the time. Two recent developments helped the Titanic to become a source of pride: the discovery of the wreck in 1985 by Robert Ballard and the 1997 blockbuster movie, “Titanic.”

Gradually it became respectable to talk about the Titanic in Belfast, and the city’s shipbuilding history will be celebrated during the Titanic Belfast Festival in April.

The new Titanic Belfast museum will be the world’s largest Titanic visitor attraction.

This befits a resurgent Belfast that was nominated by National Geographic Traveler magazine as one of the world’s top tourist attractions for 2012, and with the steady improvement of political relationships, the city looks set for much happier times.