In this morning’s Independent, Jonathan Brown takes a look at infamous conflict hotels. The Rex Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali, King David Hotel in Jerusalem … and closer to home, the Europa Hotel in Belfast!
When work began on the site of the former Great Northern Railway station in the early 1970s, the Europa and its 12 glass-fronted stories were supposed to herald a sophisticated, cosmopolitan future for Belfast. But by the 1980s the Europa had the notoriety of being the most bombed hostelry in Europe, if not the world. Known as the Hardboard Hotel because it was perpetually under repair, it was struck 33 times between 1970 and 1994 by the IRA.
It only shut twice – becoming a trenchant symbol of the province’s determination at the height of the Troubles.
Although general manager Harper Brown was said to be on an IRA death list he persistently defied the bombers, on one occasion picking up and removing a device to the hotel car park to see it brought straight back in again – requiring him to take it back outside.
And while for most of its inhabitants Belfast city centre was under virtual night-time curfew, the fun at the Europa continued unabashed with journalists enjoying the delights of the Penthouse Poppets – a less risqué version of the Playboy bunnies who dressed in high-cut one-pieces and served drinks.
Can you still stay there? Yes.
Growing up, I was aware that Ulsterbus chief Werner Heubeck was adept at carrying devices off his buses, but hadn’t heard that this practice extended to hotels and presumably other buildings too?
Photo by Randy Storey via Flick under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence
Alan Meban. Tweets as @alaninbelfast. Blogs about cinema and theatre over at Alan in Belfast. A freelancer who writes about and reports from civic, academic and political events, reviews cultural performances, chairs discussions, and live-tweets, streams and records lectures and conferences. He delivers social media training, coaching and consultancy, produces podcasts, is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Northern Ireland, FactCheckNI board member, and is a member of the Corrymeela Community.