Northern Ireland - Where is the bright new future?

Eight years on from the historic Good Friday Agreement, the much-longed-for dividends of peace remain an elusive dream for the province.

The bombs and bullets may be no more, but Ulster's politicians are still bickering, its economy is moribund and the British tax-payer is fed up with footing the bill. What is the answer? Alan Ruddock reports.

In its heyday between the first and second world wars, Harland & Wolff, the Belfast shipbuilder - whose giant cranes still dominate the city's skyscape - provided work for nearly 35,000 people. Two years ago, after it had completed the construction of The Anvil Point, a roll-on, roll-off ferry, Harland & Wolff applied for membership of Northern Ireland's Federation of Small Business. Its workforce had shrunk below 150, its shipbuilding was at an end and the company was reinventing itself as a high-tech engineering design company. In October, the old shipyards took another step towards oblivion when a billion-pound regeneration plan was unveiled for Belfast's waterfront.

The Titanic Quarter, named after Harland & Wolff's most famous progeny, will take up to 20 years to complete and will replace 185 acres of shipyards with homes, businesses, leisure centres and tourist attractions. It will, according to Mike Smith, its chief executive, become 'a major symbol of the economic regeneration of Belfast and Northern Ireland'.

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