29 Apr, 2009

Belfast’s Impact on Northern Ireland


Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. It’s also the largest urban area with a population of almost ½ million. For many years, Belfast has been a key part of tobacco production, shipbuilding, the linen industry, and rope-making. Harland and Wolff, the city’s primary ship constructors, propelled the city to global recognition as the most productive shipyard worldwide. In 1912, when they constructed the Titanic, it was the biggest ship ever built. The shipyard was also the biggest in the world. Today, it is a center for business, higher education, and arts as well as shipbuilding. The industrial and commercial docks along Belfast Lough have made her a major seaport. To the west, River Lagan pours into the Lough. The average level of river Lagan was raised by a weir constructed where it flows into Belfast Lough. The weir was built in 1994. The reason that Laganside Corporation built it was to cover mud flats. The city’s name came from the Old Irish phrase “sandy ford at the river mouth”.

Black Mountain, Cavehill, and Divis Mountain are among a group of hills which border on the northwest. At the bottom of Limestone Road is a cottage once occupied by Jonathan Swift. Its closeness to Cavehill has led some to speculate that it was part of what led to his Gulliver’s Travels.

Belfast grew into an industrial city at a very fast pace. It is unlike Manchester because it did not annex smaller villages as it grew. A natural barrier, the series of hills that surround it stopped the horizontal growth. The forty public parks provide ample sites for recreation and other outdoor activities.

A very popular tourist attraction is Botanic Gardens of Queen’s Quarter. Public events including opera broadcasts and pop concerts are very well attended. Belfast is one of Top 12 destinations to Visit in 2009 published by Frommer’s. Other attractions include Queen’s University Belfast. It is a research-intensive school and a member of the Russell Group. Belfast is also home to University of Ulster. Sports, either playing or watching, are very important to Belfast residents. Gaelic football is native to Ireland and played in few other countries. West Belfast’s Casement Park seats 32,000 spectators. It is a form of soccer that allows some limited use of the hands.

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