The restoration of the Churchill tanks, named after Winston Churchill, is a reminder both of Belfast’s industrial heritage and of Northern Ireland’s Second World War effort.
The series of articles this week in the News Letter from our first surviving edition, from October 1738, has shown how the seeds of industrial life in the northern part of Ireland had been sown by that point in the 1700s.
Look, for example, at the excerpt on the opposite page, in which clothiers in Carrickfergus advertise their skills with colour, and advertise that a Dublin expert is helping their trade.
That ad is a century before the industrial revolution took off, aided by advancements such as railways, but it gives a glimpse of the commerce for which Belfast would become well known within the United Kingdom.
London was keen to take advantage of these skills against Hitler. By then, the southern part of Ireland had broken away.
Northern Ireland’s role in the 1939 to 45 war, which was important because of manpower and because of geography, earned the gratitude of global leaders such as Churchill and Eisenhower.
The neutrality of the south may have been understandable in the context of its difficulty in siding with Britain so soon after independence, but the uncomfortable fact remains that, whatever the context, Ireland was neutral in the face of arguably the greatest evil the world has known.
The Mayor of Belfast Mairtin O’Muilleoir will be absent from this weekend’s Festival of Remembrance, which will commemorate Second World War and other veterans. He will be abroad.
The Sinn Fein politician has made significant gestures towards the pro-British community. It is to be hoped that in November he will break with republican tradition and attend the main civic remembrance event at the Cenotaph.
It is an occasion that gives thanks for bravery and endeavour and sacrifice, of which the Churchill tank is a symbol.