'Mini-Titanic' bought for Belfast waterfront

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A "mini-Titanic" with fittings matching those of the doomed ocean liner has been bought at auction in Paris by the Northern Ireland government. The 200ft Nomadic was used to ferry passengers and luggage to the Titanic and its sister ship.

The battered hulk of the tender, which was built alongside the Titanic at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast in 1911, will be towed back to its birthplace.

If funds can be found, it will be restored to its original condition as part of a "Titanic City" theme park, to be created on the Belfast waterfront over 15 years.

The Nomadic, which operated out of Cherbourg in Normandy, also served the Olympic, the Titanic's sister ship. Its interior once contained similar fittings, including bars, elaborate pillars and sweeping staircases. On 10 April 1912, it helped carry the final passengers to the Titanic on its maiden voyage. Five days later the great, and supposedly unsinkable, liner struck an iceberg and foundered in the North Atlantic.

The Nomadic worked out of Cherbourg until 1968 when it was sold for scrap. But it was rescued and towed up the Seine to Paris, where it became a floating restaurant in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. The restaurant closed in 1999 and the ship was seized by the Port of Paris authority for non-payment of mooring fees.

The Nomadic, which was towed to Le Havre in 2003, was auctioned by the authority this week for €250,001 (£171,000) a euro more than the reserve price. The Northern Ireland government was the only bidder. It needs private funds to create the theme park, which would include a full-size replica of the Titanic.