Wave of tourists for Titanic salute
IRELAND will be central to the biggest marine-tourism event in history to mark the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking.
The Titanic centenary occurs in 2012 and talks are under way between Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, France and the United States on an international series of events aimed at marking the maritime tragedy.
The anniversary is set to prove a multi-million euro tourism spectacular.
Central to the entire programme will be the Cork town of Cobh which, when known as Queenstown, was the last port of call for the Titanic in April 1912.
The 1912 disaster saw a total of 1,517 people die -- most because there was a totally insufficient number of lifeboats.
A significant portion of those who died were steerage class passengers who boarded the White Star liner in Cobh, and the Cork town is commemorating the tragedy with a special memorial.
A total of 79 people who boarded the liner in Cobh subsequently perished, representing a staggering 70pc of the 113 who boarded in the port.
The old White Star jetty is still visible, while the booking offices were converted a number of years ago into a pub and restaurant called The Titanic.
Every April, a special Titanic parade is staged in Cobh by local politicians, religious groups, historical societies and ex-servicemen's groups.
This year's event -- which takes place at 2.30pm on Sunday, April 11 -- will mark the 98th anniversary of the tragedy.
The event is traditionally followed by a special prayer service by the Titanic memorial before a wreath containing the names of all 79 victims who boarded in Cobh and died is laid at sea.
Cobh Tourism official Hendrik Verwey said it was only fitting that the town commemorate a tragedy that, almost 100 years later, still resonated with people everywhere.
He said the memorial was aimed both at commemorating those who died and also with maintaining Cobh's rich maritime past.
Cobh is enjoying a remarkable renaissance in its cruise-liner trade and is one of the fastest-growing cruise-liner ports in the world.
Cobh is already in negotiation with the other great ports associated with the doomed liner to mark the centenary.
Cobh, Belfast, Southampton, Cherbourg, Halifax and New York hope to co-ordinate a special series of events.
Belfast is building an entire new city quarter by the old Harland & Wolfe dockyards named after the Titanic and will have a special museum dedicated to the legendary liner.
The international events planned to mark the anniversary will range from tours of the major locations associated with Titanic to lectures and film shows on aspects of the liner.
Cobh already offers a special Titanic trail, which highlights the many connections in the town with the legendary liner.