Opinion piece from Naomi Long on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic

This week marks the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the world’s most famous ship and pride of east Belfast. It allows us to pay homage to those who created the giant liner and the streets from which they came.

Growing up just off Mersey Street, I was literally in the shadow of the massive Harland & Wolff cranes, constant reminders of the shipyard where my father and grandfather worked.

It was more than just an employer – for many families, including my own, it was the reason they came to east Belfast and a community built up around it.

There is still a genuine pride that the Titanic, which was an achievement for its time and which continues to fire the imagination, was built here by people from these streets.

The craftsmanship, dedication and hard work of the workers made it truly special, while their ingenuity, creativity and skill made it world-class. On that same site, Titanic Quarter is now transforming that vast space into opportunity and potential. There lies the seeds of new industries sown during the past few years, which can make east Belfast and Northern Ireland competitive with the rest of the world.

The burgeoning creative industries, vital heavy engineering, exploratory scientific innovation, the restoration of our industrial heritage and the development of world-class tourism have all grown there.

The people of east Belfast are the descendants of those who dreamt big and built the most luxurious liner of its time.

What made it great was not the shipyard, or the factories, but those people, who were key to realising the dream.

Today, it’s those people who remain our most important resource and are crucial to unlocking the potential of the city for a new generation.

The Yardmen statue at Pitt Park has three figures and on each there is a tiny model of the Titanic.

For me, it is a reminder that a little bit of the greatness that created the Titanic is contained in each individual who worked on that ship.

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