As someone whose family is entirely from West Belfast and nationalist to boot, I spent many a day and night being dragged (physically) up to Great Victoria Street Station by Mammy FC along with my other two siblings (love you both guys!) to visit many a relative there. In many ways, it was the only part of Belfast that was familiar to me until I hit about 18 and I moved to South Belfast and lived there for 6 years. South Belfast is great fun, nut it’s a bubble of country folk who go home at the weekends or out stay there welcome after graduating and eventually move up to the Four Winds. It’s nice but for me, it lacks a kind of ‘authenticity’ which I suppose some of us like. East Belfast, on the other hand, was somewhere that never really appealed to me as due to my name I was pretty certain that some 39 flavors of crap would be kicked out of me. That being said, I have the great pleasure of a number of friends who live there and I have been out and about in the East of the city and I have to admit, it’s not nearly as scary as I thought it once was.
Which brings me on to North Belfast, the often maligned yet most beautiful part of the city. I lived there for 3 months before I left Ireland as an adult a few years ago, Glengormley to be precise (if that is North Belfast?) and went to a few places, saw the sites etc. and I have to admit, it is probably my favorite part of town to live in, honest. I’ve even been back since! Why I hear you gasp from the back of the room?!!! Well, have you ever been there? I mean, really, just look at it. Look past the murals and violence and you see a beautiful part of town. You see some amazing buildings with a beautiful back drop. You have two cracking football teams in the area, shame about outsiders coming along to try and wreck these games, and all in all, you have great people who are in a bad situation, trying to make the best of what they’ve got.
Yes, it’s poorly planned. Yes, there is a lack of opportunities, and yes, government is not trying to really sort these problems out, but I always found people from North Belfast to be a bit different. Probably, it’s just me. Maybe I’m projecting something onto them that doesn’t exist, but I just love their dry sense of humour, a day out at Solitude and a drink and something to eat in Cassidy’s, a massive Armagh supporter.
So, call up to North Belfast or anywhere in Belfast, there are so many parts that lie unexplored by many, the city is filled full of history and interesting sites that it would be a shame if you didn’t.