Lynette Fay: Why, exactly, would tourists want to come to the north, Ian Paisley?

There are times when I just love Belfast and there are times when I wish that I could be beamed up and exported to a land far, far away where people have a can-do attitude instead of a face that says ‘computer says no'

Belfast – a bustling city that's fully functional outside the hours of 9-5 might come when we enter the 21st century
Lynette Fay

BELFAST enters the 20th century tomorrow. Yes, I mean the 20th century. Just like London, just like Dublin, and other major cities, the annual city marathon will this year take place... on a Sunday.

This is progress, people. There will be thousands on the streets of our city from 9am tomorrow. It is a good job, however, that many runners won’t have the marathon finished before 1pm, because if they did, there would be very little for them to do in this city of ours.

Imagine living in a city with a vibrant, bustling city centre, which is fully functional outside the civil service hours of 9-5. That might come when we enter the 21st century.

There are times when I just love Belfast and there are times when I wish that I could be beamed up and exported to a land far, far away where people have a can-do attitude instead of a face that says ‘computer says no’.

Reasons to scream ‘beam me up’? I find they are exacerbated when I return from holiday. Last week I was in Nashville, Tennessee. What a great city. It’s the celebrated home of country music, and there’s no shortage of music in its bars and venues and on its streets, but I found it to be so much more.

It’s a city with character, a city with vision and no shortage of ambition. It has a divided past but manages to make that something to celebrate. Nashville was the site of a great battle of the American Civil War. In the 1960s the seeds were sewn there for the American civil rights movement. The complete story of Nashville is told through endless monuments, public art and exhibitions. It is refreshing, informative, and had this tourist beguiled.

Billions of dollars are being invested in new businesses and real estate there at the moment. Every free inch of the place is a building site.

Nashville will celebrate it’s 250th anniversary in 2029 and the targets that are laid out for the next 10 years, are very impressive.

Now, back to Belfast. As much as I was relieved to be home, I did breathe a sigh of ‘back to the same old same old’ when I boarded the bus in Dublin Airport. Our public transport system leaves a lot to be desired.

Perhaps I am being unfairly negative about attitudes here in general, but I do find that a lack of energy, vision, ambition and lack of a ‘can-do attitude’ exist a LOT of the time.

Politicians have a big role to play in plotting our future, without doubt. Can they say that they are doing right by us at present? Definitely not – but can we say that we are doing right by ourselves?

When are we going to get rid of the insular attitudes? Many constantly look in, within this tiny piece of land – which is a dot on the map of the world. Understandably, given what we’ve come through, we constantly look back. But we carry so much weight of the past with us and can’t seem to look forward with any ambition.

This week Ian Paisley MP urged the Northern Ireland Tourism board to entice tourists north. Why would they do that exactly, Ian?

Our main city centre is dead on its feet outside shop opening hours, all pubs – all of which look and sound the same because we’re afraid to have an identity – close at 1am on weekends, it is impossible to get a taxi home and then there’s the public transport system.

What we have at present is not fit for purpose. Luckily Belfast is small enough to walk around – if you can walk, that is. The Glider seems to be working well, great if you live in the east or west. Are there plans to extend the service to the rest of the city? Tram system or an underground system, anyone? Oh, and a train service that goes further west than Portadown? We might see these in the 21st century.

Shake it up, people. Look beyond your noses and beyond limits, especially the limited confines of ‘NI’… If Belfast is to be marketed as a tourist destination, get the ducks in a row and make it happen.

There’s a big bad world out there, a more delicious menu of delights, awaiting our taste buds. So, what’s it to be, Ulster fry with extra portion of begrudgery or a continental breakfast with a side of something completely new to try?

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