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Belfast launches weeklong festival to celebrate its ill-fated creation, Titanic
15 April 2006

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) - Belfast City Council launched a weeklong festival Saturday in honor of the city's most disastrous creation, the Titanic.

"The Titanic story is probably one of the most fascinating, amazing, poignant, thought-provoking and absorbing tales from the last century, if not the last millennium," said Belfast Lord Mayor Wallace Browne.

"However, it must be remembered that what happened to Titanic was a disaster -- she was not," Browne said. "She sailed proudly from Belfast on a glorious day, carrying the hopes and pride of the growing city of Belfast."

Tens of thousands of Titanic aficianados make their way each year to Belfast, where the city's Harland & Wolff shipyards spent three years constructing the behemoth and launched it on May 31, 1911.

The Titanic struck an iceberg and sank on its maiden trans-Atlantic voyage on April 15, 1912. Of the 2,228 passengers and crew on board, only 705 survived, partly because the ship had just 20 lifeboats.

The festival, which launched in 2002, was dedicated this year in memory of John Parkinson, president of the Belfast Titanic Society, who died in March aged 99. He was one of the last surviving residents of Belfast to remember the day Titanic sailed out of Belfast Lough.

As part of the festival, Belfast City Council will be displaying more than 350 artificacts from the Titanic's construction and loss. Special tours are also running in the Harland & Wolff shipyard, which closed down in 2003. Its site is being redeveloped as a new retail and residential district called "Titanic Quarter."
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