A major international conference on science in Belfast to present publicly the latest discoveries in physics, chemistry, medicine, and other subjects ended yesterday. While the conference was of considerable importance to scientists, it was of equal significance to Northern Ireland that a prestigious meeting of this nature was held in Belfast. The gathering appeared to mark a growing confidence in this city as a conference venue, despite its history of political troubles and violence.
The annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BA) was co-hosted by Queen's University, Belfast, and the Belfast City Council. The fact that more than 2,000 visitors signed up to attend the conference was a boost to the morale of the city and its people.
Belfast has undergone imaginative town-planning, and its artistic and cultural life has been regenerated since the ``dark days'' of the 1970s. Those years saw an upsurge in political violence between the Roman Catholic minority and the Protestants. Sabotage, assassinations, and rioting by both sides were widespread in the '70s, and continue today. The Catholics, claiming discrimination, have long lobbied for Northern Ireland to become part of the Irish Republic. The Protestants, however, have steadfastly opposed this for fear of being overwhelmed by what would be the Catholic majority in a united Ireland.
Northern Ireland continues to have its political problems, and violence still makes national and international headlines, but the staging of the 1987 BA meeting here has indicated an encouraging degree of positive thinking and achievement.