Leaders view new Titanic complex

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30 March 2012 Last updated at 15:09 ET
First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness viewed the Titanic Belfast complex on FridayFirst Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness viewed the Titanic Belfast complex on Friday

The first and deputy first ministers have joined in remembering the victims of the Titanic disaster during a visit to the Titanic Belfast complex.

Peter Robinson said the building, which opens on Saturday, was a celebration of the workmanship that led to Belfast being a world leader in shipbuilding.

Martin McGuinness said the building was also a fine commemoration of the more than 1,500 people who lost their lives.

He revealed that a relative, Hugh Rooney, had worked on the ship.

Mr Robinson was asked on BBC Radio Evening Extra programme about the significance of Martin McGuinness standing beside him in shipyard surroundings that many Catholics previously regarded as hostile.

"I think it further demonstrates that we are indeed in a new era," he said.

"There's a new spirit in Northern Ireland, there's a strong confidence for the people of Northern Ireland that they can move forward, that they can work towards prosperity.

"So I think it's a sign of the times that people in Northern Ireland have now left the Troubles behind and they are wanting to see a bright future."

'World leader'

The first minister said the Titanic Belfast complex was a facility that people from Northern Ireland and from around the world "would just have to see".

"It's a facility that matches anything else in the world," he said.

"It is a celebration of the workmanship that led to Belfast being the world leader in shipbuilding a century ago, but it is also a commemoration to mark the death, in the icy seas of the Atlantic of over 1,500 people."

Martin McGuinness said: "It's an absolutely stunning building and as I predicted in the United States last week, this would be a world news story and it certainly has been in the course of the last couple of days.

"At the time when we were taking our decision at the executive to pour something like £40m into this, some questions were asked, because of the history of it, if we should be doing this.

"I have to say I was always very much in favour of this, because this is our attempt to write a new history, to move forward in a positive and constructive way, a very inclusive way."

Mr McGuinness said he had a "great stake" in the weekend's events because his father's uncle, Hugh Rooney, worked in the shipyard as a carpenter-joiner and helped with fitting out the Titanic in 1911.

"I'm very proud of that and I'm very proud of our family's association with that event at that time," he said.

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