- This article is about the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland. For other uses, see Belfast (disambiguation).
Belfast is the largest city in, and capital of both Northern Ireland and Ulster. It has a population of 277,391. Belfast is situated at the mouth of the River Lagan on Belfast Lough and is surrounded by hills.
Belfast saw the worst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. A calmer scene in recent years has allowed some development of the city. The Lagan riverfront has been regenerated, including the new Odyssey complex and sports arena. Much of the city centre has now been pedestrianised. The city has two airports: Belfast City Airport adjacent to Belfast Lough and Belfast International Airport which is near Lough Neagh. Queen's University Belfast is the main university in Belfast. The University of Ulster also maintains a campus in the city, which concentrates in arts.
The name Belfast originates from the Irish Béal Feirste, or the mouth of the Farset , the river on which the city was built. Interestingly, the river Farset has been superseded by the River Lagan as the most important river; the Farset now languishes under Bridge Street in obscurity.
To the north of Belfast are the Antrim Hills in County Antrim, and to the south, the Castlereagh Hills in County Down. Overlooking the city are Black Mountain and Cavehill - the famous Napoleon's nose is a basaltic outcrop here which forms the border with neighbouring Glengormley.
Points of interest
The City Hall, dating from 1903, Queen's University, Belfast (1849), and other Victorian and Edwardian buildings display a large number of sculptures. Among the grandest buildings are two former banks: Ulster Bank (1860), in Waring Street and Northern Bank (1769), in nearby Donegall Street.
The world's largest dry dock is located in the city, and the giant cranes (Samson and Goliath) of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, builders of the Titanic, can be seen from afar. Other long gone industries included Irish linen and rope-making.
The north of the city is known for its murals, reflecting the political and religious allegiances of the two communities. The Shankill Road, which is predominantly Protestant, has murals depicting loyalty to the British Crown, the Ulster Volunteer Force, and other loyalist paramilitaries. Conversely, murals on the Falls Road and Ardoyne, mainly Catholic areas, feature political themes like a united Ireland, and the Irish Republican Army, as well as traditional folklore and the Irish language. The Ulster folk hero Cú Chulainn has appeared on both loyalist and republican murals.
Belfast is the home of the News Letter (historically known as "The tuppenny liar"), the oldest newspaper in the world still in publication. Other main newspapers include The Irish News (historically known as "the penny liar") and The Belfast Telegraph.
The site of Belfast has been occupied since the Bronze ages, and the remains of Iron Age hill forts can still be seen.
In the early 17th century Belfast was settled by English and Scottish settlers, under a plan by Sir Arthur Chichester to colonise and remove Irish Catholics from the land. This caused much tension with the existing Irish Catholic population who rebelled in 1641, when England was distracted with its Civil War. The resulting slaughter is still strong in Ulster Protestant folk memory. It was later settled by a small number of French Huguenots who established a sizeable linen trade.
Belfast became the centre of Irish Protestantism, and in 1922 it was declared the capital of Northern Ireland after Ireland was partitioned into Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State (later to become the Republic of Ireland, when it withdrew from the British Commonwealth in 1949).
During the Second World War, Belfast was heavily bombed by German forces due to its concentration of heavy shipbuilding and aerospace industries. Much of the city was flattened.
For much of its history, Belfast has been racked by sectarian divisions between Roman Catholics and Protestants, and was hit hard by The Troubles of the 1960s-1990s.
The formation of the Laganside Corporation in 1989 heralded the start of the regeneration of the River Lagan and its surrounding areas in Belfast.
In the 2001 elections, the voters of Belfast elected 51 councillors to Belfast City Council from the following political parties: 14 Sinn Féin, 11 Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), 10 Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), 9 Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), 3 Progressive Unionist Party (PUP), 3 Alliance Party and 1 Ulster Democratic Party.
Belfast has four UK parliamentary and Assembly constituencies - North Belfast, West Belfast, South Belfast and East Belfast. All four extend somewhat beyond the city boundaries into parts of Castlereagh, Lisburn and Newtownabbey districts. In 2001, these elected 2 DUP MPs, 1 Ulster Unionist MP and 1 Sinn Féin MP. In 2003, they elected 7 Sinn Féin, 6 DUP, 5 Ulster Unionist, 4 SDLP, 1 PUP, and 1 Alliance MLAs (members of the Northern Ireland Assembly).
Famous people from or living in Belfast
Last updated: 06-01-2005 19:49:03
Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12