Photograph of the Beacon of Hope, Belfast.

Belfast, July 2008.

It seems that one of the marks of a modern European city is public art. I’ve seen some that is strange (the five-foot square matrix of 4-inch umbrellas in Athens airport, say), but the first time I came off the ferry in Belfast and saw the Beacon of Hope (as I’m told this is called) lit up I thought it was simply tremendous.

I suppose, like most art, she will connect with everyone slightly differently, but I did find something eminently hopeful about this structure standing over the Lagan.

The sign by the base reads:

This female figure represents various allegorical themes associated with hope and aspiration, peace and reconciliation and is derived from images from Classical and Celtic mythology.
This symbol creates a tangible first statement of our long term objective in bringing people together to foster a happy and fulfilling life for all and a sense of gratefulness for all that life has given us.

Symbols can carry great power — as everyone in Northern Ireland witnesses from time to time — I like to hope this one does, too.