drink and fecklessness

Drink! Fecklessness! Partitionism! Shame! The Irish ideologies.1461710_541160745967918_417364612_n.jpg

from the irish times online, the original article.

From the Celtic Twilight to the Celtic Tiger, from Dev to Vincent Browne, and from the Border to Brand Ireland, PATRICK FREYNE looks at some of the concepts that have shaped Irish identity over the past century


Every nation state needs an exotic origin myth, and ours was packaged courtesy of WB Yeats, Lady Gregory and the Celtic Twilight. The languages of Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany were tied to an archaeological legacy that stretched across Europe, and a historical one referenced by classical writers. In their yen to define a soulful Celtic identity they probably over-reached. A study led by Prof Daniel Bradley of Trinity College Dublin found that the Irish, Welsh, Scottish and Breton peoples have more genetic links to the Iberian Peninsula than they do to the supposed Celtic homeland of central Europe.

“People say we’re Celtic, but what do they mean by that?” says Bradley. “Do they mean we’re genetically tied to a particular archaeological context that stretches across Europe or that we’re sort of similar to Scottish, Welsh and Breton people? I’m happy with the second thing, but I don’t see any genetic basis for the first. I think people are very uneasy if you say we’re not Celts. Celtic means different things to different people.”

“We’re a mongrel mix of different cultural strands,” says Richard Kearney, the Charles Seelig professor of philosophy at Boston College. “Celt is just one word for a medley of narratives.”

Private property

After the Famine, Irish people began to lay more fixed claims on land, to (eventually) own their land, and to obsess over it. “From then on there was one inheriting son and one dowried daughter,” says Tom Inglis, author of Moral Monopoly and a sociology professor at University College Dublin. “The subdivision of farms stopped. Farms had dropped to incredibly small sizes – five or 10 acres on some very bad land – and this change took place where, okay, we’re not going to suffer the consequences of famine. We were going to get our act together. The obsession with property is really a legacy of not being allowed to own it for generations.”

Land has always been a fraught issue. From the Land League, through the Land Commission, the bungalow bliss/blitz of the 1970s and the property erotica of the Celtic Tiger era, the post-Famine Irish want to own property. So when the State levies a property tax, we’re more inclined to imagine rackrenting landlords than Nordic-style public services.

An Béal Bocht

We’ve always had a complicated relationship with poverty. While eager to recount stories of hardship nestled in the past, from Peig Sayers to Myles na gCopaleen’s parody An Béal Bocht to Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, we’ve also liked to present ourselves as a classless society, in which we’ve all suffered equally (less a meritocracy and more an egalitarian failed state).

“We’re riddled with fascinating contradictions on this one,” says the UCD historian Diarmaid Ferriter. “It used to be asserted publicly that there were no class differences in Ireland, but then you’d witness incredible poverty and snobbery . . . There’d be a public demarcation of class and wealth and a deference shown to people with money, but it would also be claimed that we were this plucky little nation all in it together.”

In Ireland many lay claim to rags-to-riches success stories, so the idea that some experienced significantly more suffering rankles.

“People got very angry about Angela’s Ashes,” says Ferriter. “There was a reluctance on the part of some people to confront the reality of what some people lived through . . . He was accused of being a liar.”

This remains an issue. “By 2007 I think people genuinely believed that there were no more poor people in the country,” says Mark O’Halloran, writer of Adam and Paul and Prosperity. “I got quite angry about that, because all you had to do was stand on O’Connell Street and look around.”

De Valera’s Catholic crossroads

“The ideal Ireland that we would have, the Ireland that we dreamed of, would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as a basis for right living, of a people who, satisfied with frugal comfort, devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit – a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age.” So spoke Éamon de Valera on St Patrick’s Day 1943.

“Everyone goes back to that speech because it’s about isolation, about becoming a Catholic island in which we needed less of the material and more of the spiritual,” says Tom Inglis. “Even before independence the idea of modernising through the British state was anathema to the colonised Irish Catholics, so the State of Ireland when it emerged became a very Catholic state. Not only did it have control of education, health, social welfare, industrial schools and orphanages, but it dominated the image of what a good life was. The State was independent of the church, but politicians had the same view of what a good life was.”

Not being British

A key strand in Irish identity is “not being British”. The British ruled us for centuries, after all. There has always been a sliding scale of not-Britishness: the more rural, Catholic, westbound and separated from centralised politics you are, the more “not British” you are, which theoretically makes you better at being Irish. “That’s the dialectic,” says Richard Kearney. “I am A because I am not B. I am Irish because I am not British. Douglas Hyde said, ‘The British are the people we love to hate and never cease to imitate.’ ”


Irish people in the gently triumphalist south were never going to be comfortable with anything as ambiguous as a foreign state in the attic. For northerners after independence the border was a grim reality to be grappled with. For many in the south it was a grim reality to be ignored.

This discomfort was clear during last year’s presidential campaign, in which borders were revealed to be, for some, something that shouldn’t be crossed. “In one of the debates a young Irish woman asked Martin McGuinness, ‘Why did you come down here? Why don’t you stay up there?’ ” recalls Elaine Byrne, Trinity academic and author of Political Corruption in Ireland 1922 to 2010. “The Border has been a psychological barrier as well as a physical one, but I think our relationship to it is changing . . . Knowing people from different sides of the divide in the North, I think people are more comfortable with identity being ambiguous now.”

The journalist and activist Eamonn McCann observes that though Protestant and Catholic communities are more divided than ever, the number of people who define themselves as Northern Irish as opposed to Irish or British is at an all-time high. “I sign myself in a hotel registry as ‘Northern Irish’, and I can’t remember when I started doing that. Maybe people in the North are more porous or softer at the edges than we sometimes assume them to be.”

He thinks that partition has affected southerners in strange and subtle ways. “I’ve begun to suspect that one of the reasons that people aren’t storming the streets over cuts is that subconsciously the idea of militant street campaigning has been made uncongenial because of the terrible experience in the North. That’s an example of the hidden ways these things affect one another.”


Ireland is a local country for local people. Look no further than the recent rallies supporting the “local hero” Seán Quinn. This phenomenon has its origins before independence.

“Ireland was governed by Dublin Castle by an administration that was seen as hostile,” says Elaine Byrne. “People didn’t trust it. As a result the loyalty wasn’t to the State but to the local area. I guess the support for people like Michael Lowry and Seán Quinn represents that. They’re the local chieftains. They deliver for their area, and the sense of loyalty to them is extraordinary.”

Diarmaid Ferriter says, “When English people come over here they’re always surprised at the mingling of politicians and people. People expect access . . . There’s a great story about someone calling around to their TD on Christmas morning to get a form signed. But when the TD reads it he finds it actually has to be signed by a doctor. The constituent says, ‘I couldn’t possibly call to my doctor on Christmas day!’ ”

The Civil Service mentality

It’s worth remembering in these civil-servant-bashing times that the nod-and-wink corruption of the parish pump has always been offset by an incorruptible, inherited British civil service.

“Some historians have called the Civil Service the success story of independence,” says Diarmaid Ferriter. “At the time of independence and through the Civil War we needed continuity in terms of governance . . . The generation that presided over that change from British rule to the Free State were genuine public servants who may have been very conservative but who took the business of state-building very seriously.”

The Irish mammy

The church’s enforcers, charged with inculcating the good life outlined by Dev, were the mothers. “Women were seen as the front line of the defence when it came to the preservation of a Catholic Ireland, and that they had to impart the knowledge to a new generation,” says Diarmaid Ferriter. “So rhetorically you give them that power, but you don’t give them any power within the institution itself.”

The Labour senator and TCD lecturer Ivana Bacik believes that a lot of traditional Irish mammies “were quietly simmering underneath, and I think that filtered down to their more feminist daughters”.

Surrealism, whimsy, melancholy and alcoholism

The Irish character has often responded to repression by retreating into games with language and heightened reality. We have a strong legacy of this from our oral storytelling traditions through the work of Flann O’Brien and on into the era of Father Ted. We prefer waxing lyrical about alternative realities to intellectual confrontation. Surrealism and whimsy can quickly turn into alcoholism and melancholy. (One of our national symbols is a pint of Guinness.)

“It’s the cliche of the thoughtless, feckless literary Celt who’d prefer to come up with a good joke rather than some rigorous analysis,” says Richard Kearney. “It’s a colonial stereotype that we internalised. Mathew Arnold said, ‘The Celts can stay quaint and stay put.’ It’s done us a great disservice.”

TK Whitaker and the programme for economic expansion

After de Valera’s failed experiment with Catholic isolation, during which we were passed out economically by our war-ravaged neighbours, TK Whitaker, secretary at the Department of Finance, drafted a paper advocating foreign direct investment, free trade and an end to protectionism. His policies were taken on board by incoming taoiseach Seán Lemass and shaped the decades that followed.

“Some people believe that the Lemass-Whitaker partnership had been exaggerated somewhat and that maybe their departure wasn’t as radical as presented,” says Ferriter. “But you have to compare it with what went before. Emigration was the only option for so many thousands of people. Culturally and psychologically their policies amounted to an acceptance that the government had got it wrong to date . . . Dev thought of it as an extension of Fianna Fáil policy, but the reality was that he knew feck-all about economics.”

Education, education, education

Among a raft of modernising, mohair-suit-wearing “pissheads” (Diarmaid Ferriter’s word) promoted by Lemass was minister for education Donogh O’Malley, who sprang a surprise announcement on his cabinet colleagues in 1966: free secondary education. “The long-term effects of that were huge,” says Ferriter. “By the time you get to the late 80s/early 90s the amount of people with third-level qualifications doubles. Donogh referred to the number of kids leaving school with only primary education as a ‘dark stain’ on the national conscience . . . You couldn’t claim to be a modern, prosperous nation if you had so many kids with no access to education after 13 years of age.”


From the Irish Countrywomen’s Association campaign for indoor plumbing to the contraceptive train, the women’s movement has been an outlier in pursuing things that would eventually be taken for granted by Irish people.

“I think there’s always been a strange dichotomy or contradiction in Irish society where you have very conservative society, apparently dominated by the church, and yet there are flashes or eruptions of liberalism from time to time,” says Ivana Bacik. “Things like the Limerick Soviet or the women’s movement in the 70s and 80s. It was seen as very much a minority interest. But then Mary Robinson was able to win the presidential election in 1990 despite taking very principled stances on issues like contraception that would have been at odds with Irish conservative values.

“I think in the 1990s people involved with the women’s movement felt very vindicated.”

À la carte Catholicism

The liberalising force of the feminist movement and free secondary education led Catholics to listen to their own conscience and making their own choices on issues such as divorce and contraception. This was called à-la-carte Catholicism in the 1980s. It’s called cultural Catholicism nowadays and, in his book The Luck of the Irish, Roy Foster suggests that it’s de facto Protestantism.

“By the time of the pope’s visit the church was really in an attempt to dam a flowing tide,” says Tom Inglis. “I worked for the Catholic Church at that time. Vocations had been declining . . . And they had lost control of women, who were tired of having large families over which they had no control.

“What you have now are smorgasbord Catholics, who mix bits of other religions with whatever – yoga or reiki. They’re still searching for meaning, but they’re often finding it outside the church.”

The craic

In the 1990s the international image of the dispossessed, melancholy expat was replaced with a more affable, easy-going variety. This was represented by Jackie’s Army – likeably tipsy Irish football fans, happy just to be involved. Soon, however, it became very important to us that we Irish, famously welcome anywhere, were better craic than everyone else. We became craic supremacists.

Tom Inglis does the psychoanalysis. “A culture of self-denial and self-mortification where ambition and success and self-aggrandisement of any kind were frowned upon gradually gave way to a new culture of self-indulgence. Hedonism was the greatest sin in the 50s and 60s, and in the 80s recession didn’t allow for it – we didn’t have the money — but by Jesus when the Celtic Tiger came did the Irish become hedonistic.”

Brand Ireland

Irish culture internationally was also rebranded. It became synonymous with U2 and Riverdance and Guinness and the international stature of Mary Robinson. This soft cultural power preceded hard economic power, and people seeking arts funding usually say that they’re linked. We eventually became a bit culturally pleased with ourselves. Riverdance gave way to Michael Flatley’s triumphalist Celtic Tiger, and we sent Dustin the Turkey to perform an in-joke at Eurovision.


By the late 1990s Ireland was seeing immigration, we were firmly embedded in Europe and many of our own had returned. “I think Irishness has become a more diverse idea,” says Ivana Bacik. “It’s no longer just tied up with Kathleen Ní Houlihan and the Easter Rising. It’s much more inclusive.

“The recognition of Irish men who fought under the British flag in the world wars was huge . . . I think the inward migration in the 1990s was hugely important. And it wasn’t just the visible new communities but also the returning Irish, people who’d been abroad for many years. They tended to be more outward-looking and impatient with conservative Ireland. Many left because there was no room in Ireland if you were gay or a single parent.That’s all changed enormously.”

The folk singer and songwriter Barry McCormack likes this more fluid sense of identity. “When I first got into folk music I got really into the idea of identity being linked to culture,” he says. “I’m not so sure now. A guy from Dublin that plays the blues, is it that he has this Celtic soul that understands the pain of African-Americans or is it just that he really likes the blues? I remember reading David McWilliams talking about the Hiberno-cosmopolitan being as at home on the Champs-Élysées as on Hill Sixteen. I identified with that because I ended up living in Paris and I’d come home to GAA matches and would almost feel smug about it.” He laughs. “Although a true Hiberno-cosmopolitan wouldn’t be caught dead on the Champs-Élysées. It’s for tourists.”

Ireland, Inc

In the late 1980s, as successive governments borrowed our way to oblivion, a group of economists (called, by Dick Walsh, the Doheny Nesbitt school of economics, after the pub they supposedly drank in) advocated fiscal responsibility and new economic thinking. Those ideas particularly appealed to Des O’Malley’s new political party, the economically liberal Progressive Democrats, but ultimately they became dogma for all mainstream parties.

By the late 1990s the honorary PD minister for finance Charlie McCreevy was dictating economic policy. The textbook version of neoliberalism favours low taxes, light regulation and cutting government spending. The Irish version involved low taxes, light regulation and increased government spending, all done in an unsustainable procyclical manner.

“When I have it I spend it and when I don’t I don’t,” said McCreevy. Businessmen rechristened the country Ireland, Inc. Sure, what could possibly go wrong?


Recently our boomtime hubris has been replaced by postboom miserablism. Peig Sayers is back, but she wears the pinstriped suits of Vincent Browne and leads us in ritual self-flagellation from a blood-red set. Look at us, in the ruins of the decking on our overpriced ghost estates. What pathetic people we are.

“It’s the hangover syndrome,” says Richard Kearney. “We’ve had our high and now we’ve had our low. We’re caught up in the alcoholic cycle, waiting for another high to bring us back up again. The temptation is always essentialism. We were the greatest Celtic Tigers in the world. Now we’re miserable creatures who deserve to be punished. We have to break that cycle.”



When I grow up, I wanna be a principal or a caterpillar.

This is my sandbox. Over there is the deep end, I’m not allowed to go in there. That’s where I see the leprechaun, he tells me to burn things.

(To Vicki Valentine) My daddy shoots people!

Miss Hoover, I glued my head to my shoulder.

My worm entered my mouth and I ate it. Can I have another one?

My cat’s breath smells like cat food.

I love glue!

I eated the purple berries. They taste like… burning.

Look Daddy, I made a Ralphwich! It tastes hurty!

All my friends have birthdays this year.

I don’t have a red crayon. I ate it.

I’m a furniture.

I’m playing with Elmo.

The happiest day of my life was when the doctor said I wouldn’t hear voices anymore.

Fun toys are fun.

I dress myself!

I’m pedaling backwards!

Help! She’s touching my special area.

(After being thrown through a window) I’m a brick.

I’m going to Africa. There’s lions, and monkeys, and Santa…….

And, when the doctor said I didn’t have worms any more, that was the happiest day of my life.

Will you cook my dinner for me? My parents aren’t around and I’m not allowed to turn on the stove.

I wanna be a triangle.

Dying tickles.

I’m a Star Wars.

I bent my Wookiee!

I’m special.

(on the phone with Krusty) I flushed a potato down the toilet, now we have to live in a hotel!

(after being scared) I’m going back inside Mommy!

(Watching Marge cry) Your eyes need diapers.

Lisa is a sellout!  Lisa is a sellout!  Lisa, what’s a sellout?

(After falling on a wind stock) I almost died.

(To Marge at the door) Can Lisa come out with her hands up? (Waves his hand to Chief Wiggum)

(Squishes an ice cream cone on his forehead) I’m a unitard!

(Covered by ants) These dots ate Itchy!

(On bus) Go banana!

Yay! Field day! I can go cuckooing and no one can stop me!

(Rolled up in a map) When I come out of this, I’ll be a butterfly!

I’m a fun factory! (Puts Play-Doh in mouth and squeezes it out of his nose and ears)

(To Ms. Cantwell) If I can’t remember the right letter, I’d just put an A!

(To Groundskeeper Willie after he puts Ralph down from a horse) I like the Play-Doh that comes out the back!

(At the temporary tattoo station) I want kitty whiskers!

If mommy’s purse didn’t belong in the microwave, why did it fit?

I wet my arm pants!

Grandma had hair like that when she went to sleep in her forever box!

I’m bembarrassed for you.

(To Lisa) Hi, Lisa! (To Superintendent Chalmers) Hi, Super Nintendo Chalmers! (in Lisa Gets an “A”).

(After getting announced for an academic alert by Principal Skinner) I won, I won!

(To Lisa when he’s using the computer) I’m learnding!

(While using the gas station bathroom) Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want, so tell me what you want, what you really really want. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want, so tell me what you want, what you really really want!

(To Principal Skinner after he asked Ralph if he’s finished going to the bathroom) I finished before we came in!

I’m Idaho!

My knob tastes funny.

(To the Forest Fire Bear while Ralph sits on his lap) And I want a bike! And a monkey! And a friend for the monkey!

(To the Forest Fire Bear after he asked Ralph if he’s going to start any fires) At my house we call them uh-oh’s!

(To Chief Wiggum after eating a sample of Tomacco) Eww, Daddy, this tastes like Gramma!

Lisa’s bad dancing makes my feet sad.

Look, Big Daddy! It’s Regular Daddy!

(To Chief Wiggum) Look, Daddy! A whale egg!

(To Chief Wiggum) Daddy, I’m scared! Too scared to wet my pants!

This snowflake tastes like fish sticks.

My parents won’t let me use scissors.

Slow down, Bart! My legs don’t know how to be as long as yours!

Principal Skinner, I got carsick in your office.

Dear Miss Hoover, you have Lyme disease. We miss you. Kevin is biting me. Come back soon. Here’s a drawing of a spirochete. Love Ralph.

Bushes are nice ’cause they don’t have prickers. Unless they do. This one did. Ouch!

The doctor told me that BOTH my eyes were lazy! And that’s why it was the best summer ever.

I kissed a light socket once and I woke up in a helicopter!

(To Bart) Don’t I look stupid? (Runs into the wall repeatedly and makes a hole)

(Sees electrical wires in the wall after running into it) Mmm, wall licorice! (Chews on wires causing him to get electrocuted, then faints)

(While drowning in the pool) I’m finding Nemo!

(While leaving through a pipe after drowning) I saw heaven!

(To a goat at Martin’s party with shrimp in his hand) Want some peanuts, Mr. Elephant?

(To the Groundskeeper after realizing that the “elephant” is a goat, the “shrimp” is peanuts, and the goat is allergic to shrimp) Your breath smells like “Don’t drink that”!

He’s gonna smell like hot dogs.

(While coming out of the melting donut hole from the new Lard Lad statue that’s melting) Th-th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks! (The statue’s melted wax pours on Ralph)

When I grow up, I’m going to Bovine University!

I ate too much plastic candy.

I ate all my caps…ow!

I found a moon rock in my nose!

I’m wearing a bathrobe, and I’m not even sick.

You have the bestest Dad. He read me a story about Chinese food.

My face is on fire.

The doctor said I wouldn’t have so many nosebleeds if I kept my finger out of there.

(To Marge Simpson after she calmed Ralph down from running around and playing by himself) Your hair is tall and pretty!

Wheeee… ow I bit my tongue!

Oh boy, sleep! That’s where I’m a Viking!

Was President Lincoln okay?

I want a tricycle, and a dog who won’t chew my Hot Wheels, and a brighter future for America! I’m Ralph Wiggum and I have been a good boy!

(While getting carried by birds during The Simpsons Ride) I’m a baby bird!

Clouds are God’s sneezes!

Martin Luther King had a dream. Dreams are where Elmo and Toy Story had a party and I went there. Yay! My turn is over!

Your toys are fun to touch. Mine are all sticky.

Hee hee! I’m in danger!

I’m the smartest ball in the bag!

I have lemon-lime disease!

I’m an exclamation point!

I’m a millionaire!


Et tu, Belfast Newsletter?​



muppets, all of us.

Conversations collapse into arguments, accusations and counter-accusations. Insults, personal attack and sometimes even physical violence mar the political argument as 2016 draws to a close. Here we are at the pinnacle of human development, at the most advanced point in our evolution, yet our political institutions seem to be rife with corruption and poor management, and the discourse has cascaded into demagoguery and personality cult.

Marshall Rosenberg was a psychologist during the Civil Rights Era in the United States. He developed a process where, by focusing on language and communication cues, opposing sides could shift their arguments toward mutual collaboration. Rosenberg speculated that all humans share the same basic needs, to be heard and understood, and for their argument to be respected. Conflict arises when the actual wording of the argument is perceived as a threat, leading to conflict. His four steps lead to a resolution of everyone’s needs, and does not focus on the inner drive of the individual to ‘win’. Small changes in the language used demonstrate the value of the other person and their perspectives.

Observation and Analysis

The first step in Rosenberg’s process deals with the analysis of the over-arching argument, without emotional input. In practical terms, this could mean repeating what someone has just said, but without attaching any emotional wright or justification in the response. Simple phonetic change whereby we refocus the commentary to extract necessary and vital information from the encounter is the objective. “I am listening” is a more effective response than “You said”. This helps by slowing the pace of the discourse, and empowers deeper interpretation. By resisting the temptation to disagree immediately the idea is that injured parties can move forward instead of becoming entrapped in the various minutiae of the argument. This is a skill which needs to be learned and exercised, as it may not come naturally.

Emotions above Experience

While they should not be the driving force of the situation, feelings play an important part in the argument. By reflecting the other person’s emotional point of view one displays empathy; by expressing your own emotional conflict, be it fear, anger or disillusion, without converting these into a weapons with which to attack one’s opponent the argument is moved along to a more productive phase.


Rosenberg’s principal was that negative emotions which we experience within a conflict setting are related to unmet needs: He created a framework in which he categorised these desires into categories such as recreation, harmony, sense of well-being, control. In this part of the process the two sides attempt to pair their feelings with the other sides needs. One party might express fear and concern about their government or certain policies, the respondent party could reflect this by asking about their insecurities as regards their financial/moral wellbeing.
Focusing on the identification of needs can remove blocks in the communication process, especially within the environment of a heated debate. These pauses are based on verbal analysis; “I am questioning my understanding of the situation…”; “I am wondering what you’ve heard me say…”


At some stage in discussions there comes as point when one must talk about specific actions that help satisfy needs. These requests and desires come to the fore naturally when both sides establish a connection. By leading the conversation in this way we arrive at new conclusions and new understandings both of ourselves and our position and the requirements of the other party. Offering information considered contrary to the opponents point of view for example, or expressing curiosity to deepen our understanding of the other. It is important that this occurs at the most adequate moment. Otherwise, two people speaking at the same time is counter productive; the opponent has no ‘space’ in which to take on board the opposing argument. As Rosenberg stated, “I wouldn’t expect someone who has been injured to hear my side until they felt that I had fully understood the depth of their pain.”

Manage Yourself

This approach is also useful for dealing with one’s own needs and inner conflict. Find out what it is that is causing turmoil within you, state your opinion and feelings about the situation, recognise the needs involved, and find a solution that helps you manage these necessities. Examples are something simple like withdrawing to a quiet place to reflect, or putting yourself in the shoes of your opponent. Every need can be further exposed and analysed. If you believe your opponent to be stupid in reality you may be looking for understanding and connection, if you believe them to be stubborn your end goal might be acceptance.

With practice you can become fluent in this technique. there are many resources available for those interested in learning more about this approach. You can begin by focusing on the first step, observation. Finding a common thread within the cacophony. If needs aren’t met negative behaviour tends to come to the fore. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) helps people peacefully and effectively resolve conflicts in personal, organisational, and political settings.




It started as a breath, a wisp, emanating from the small squares and plazas, bubbling out onto the streets, through the neighborhoods and into the city itself, becoming its architecture and infrastructure, before finishing absorbed in the history, and becoming the culture of a country. With a formula that the architect Oriol Bohigas baptized as participatory urbanism and which was the impulse behind the motor, later known as the Barcelona model, forty years ago in 1976 this particular Olympic dream was born.

The municipal coffers were exhausted and it was difficult to find a model which started from a politically democratically acceptable point and which ideally would have as a partner the popular will of the people. Intense Political agitation from the era and the citizenry with its never-ending processions of street demonstrations and claims against the ruling state of the day -the addition of private initiative came later- were the key to the beginning of Barcelona’s profound change.

It was all made possible by the first democratic, municipal councils and the implication of a group of architects and town planners who were capable of looking beyond the restraints and worries of the election cycle (such was the idealism, or perhaps naivety of that era). Names such as Bohigas, Delegate of Town Planning (1980/1991) and Ambassador for Culture (1991/1994), Joan Busquets, Director of Planning Services (1983/1989), Jordi Borja, Deputy Mayor between 1983 and 1995 and Joan Antoni Solans Planning Delegate between 1977 and 1980. Previously, in 1973, Barcelona had purchased the huge unused industrial plots and brownfield sites from factory owners and businesses which had recently abandoned the city, as well as much of the obsolete railway installations, all of which totaled an injection of 126 hectares (more than 12 million square meters) to the project. Thus, the city could start to plan, project and build parks such as La Maquinista, Parc de l’Estació del Nord, the Parc de Joan Miró and the Parc de l’Espanya Industrial.


Parc de l’Espanya Industrial, La Maquinista, Parc de Joan Miró, Parc de l’Estació del Nord.

In the first years of the democracy, the planners moved to put in place the base for what they deemed necessary to do. They ‘Sponged’ the historic center, piercing through baroque and medieval neighbourhoods, removing entire streets and areas in order to open up the city, foment new neighborhoods, continually assessing so that the existing ‘barrios’ maintained a certain coherent dignity. Their gift was to endow the city with a powerful infrastructure and above all else, allow the citizens to look to the sea, because Barcelonians, for more than forty years could hardly more than see the coastline, much less enjoy it. It wasn’t until its designation as an Olympic headquarters in 1986, an initiative that started to move all the resources and bring together necessary agents, Public and Private, that it was finally possible to make the dream come true.

“We have in front of us a magnificent mobilizing project.” said the Mayor Pasqual Maragall in the book ‘Refent Barcelona’. The messy collection of lean-tos, huts and sheds which were falling down on the Moll de Fusta, mere meters from the waters edge, were demolished, and the industry which had hugged the coast for centuries disappeared. The project recuperated six kilometers of beachfront. From sea to mountain the city drew new bypasses, El Dalt and Litoral, and as an additional touch (which only adds to the beauty of the ideas which had flourished) the opportunity was not lost to improve and clean up the barrios that these new multi roadway giants ringed, among them Nou Barrisñ and Horta.

Parallel to this work the planners started to thin out the buildings in the densely overpopulated barrio of Raval, colloquially known as Chinatown for the huge number of immigrants who had installed their uprooted lives there. Although there was huge polemic regarding the demolition, spaces were broken open, justified by the application of pure hygienic theory, which at the same time gave the necessary space and artistic freedom to create potent cultural centers such as the Cultural Museum of Art of Barcelona (MACBA, 2005). This was followed later by the opening of the Rambla de Raval (2010), which in its turn was to be followed a few years later by several prestigous universities.


Rambla de Raval

The inevitable Olympic village arrived with the games and these were constructed on the seafront, while the opportunity was not lost to carry out another important reconversion. The industrial area of Poble Nou was modernized, into a new zone of mixed development, housing within an economic sphere, linked to technology and the communication industries. Like pieces in a domino race, so it was locked down, the opportunity for another huge transformation, that of the opening of Diagonal from Plaza de Glories right down to the sea.(1999) This in turn led (figuratively and physically) to the design of another grand zone with a brand new stamp forever marking the shore of the city, that of the Forum (2004). Not content with all this, these demons of change and refurbishment decided to put some order into the two (hugely polluted and neglected) rivers which run either side of the city, el Llobregat and el Besos. Yet what is perhaps the most spectacular thing about all these changes was the relative speed with which they were designed, implemented and finished, between 1986 and 1990.

No more that ugly grey city which had done nothing more than deteriorate tragically throughout the seventies and early eighties. Rarely did anyone visit. The transformation into one of the European cities with more attraction and charm than a great many others brings year after year millions upon millions of visitors to the City of the Counts. Irony of ironies, today Barcelona has serious difficulties managing what has now become the second more pressing issue for the citizens of BCN, an excess of tourism.

The Barcelona Regeneration Model

International events are used to enhance prestige, attract private investment and to focus and motivate the city’s workforce. Buildings and infrastructure constructed for the events are of very high quality and serve a double purpose: for short-term use during the event itself and as a means of regenerating a decaying area of the city in the long-term.

The use of low-paid immigrant labour and multiple sub-contracting in the construction industry.

The city is seen as the sum of its neighbourhoods, rather than comprising of distinct parts. This discourages a bit-meal approach to regeneration and instead emphasises the building of communities.

Public intervention is linked to the demands of the local community.

A reduction in urban density of 20%.

The radical transformation of the perimeters of the worst affected areas. It is easier to begin the transformation process where the deterioration is not so significant.

Careful planning of public building locations to encourage regeneration and prevent duplication.

Buildings of heritage value are conserved for public use such as schools, libraries, offices, cultural centres, etc..

The introduction of mixed new land uses into an area, including service industries, office and retail, private and public housing.

The encouragement of innovative architecture and thinking.

Investment in transport infrastructure to improve accessibility. This increases opportunities for economic and social activity.

A deliberate policy of introducing a new social mix into deprived neighbourhoods.

The creation of new communal open spaces in strategic areas to encourage social mixing. The open spaces are created well before new building development commences.

A flexible rather than rigid approach to planning.

A policy of spreading new retail and service industries throughout the city, particularly in central areas to retain vibrant communities.

A block on new out-of-town shopping centre developments.

Compulsory purchase of buildings in very poor condition in order to renovate them using public funds.

Building renovations completed to a high standard, both interior and exterior.

Tax incentives and grants to refurbish properties.

Strong political and local leadership to drive the regeneration process.

Education, job training, health, crime and leisure initiatives to help tackle the social problems of illiteracy, poor health, and high unemployment.

Collaboration between the Leisure and Social Services Departments to tackle social exclusion amongst the disaffected young. Leisure amenities in schools are kept open until late into the evening.


30 years ago Barcelona was nominated 1992 Olympic Host City and from there began her incredible transformation. (Translated from an article in La Vanguardia)

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Thirty years ago the dream became reality. October 1986 Lausanne. Barcelona was awarded the charge of being host for the 1992 Olympic Games. Now, thirty years later, what did the Games leave Barcelona?

The answer is a City/Urban project, perhaps the largest and most ambitious ever attempted in its history. Barcelona looked to the sea, and eliminated the obstacles that existed between barrio and beach. She drew herself a new coastline, built roundabouts, networks and new motorways. Entire neighbourhoods were transformed, building the Olympic home recuperated the mountain of Montjuic. All this, and many other impressive urban legacies. Never was there a more complete vision for the City, which at the same time also achieved a most transcendental objective; to place Barcelona among the true global Cities of the world such as London, Paris and New York. After several false starts (a Civil and a World War among the most excusable of reasons), Barcelona finally achieved the honour. So was born the Generation of 92.

In 1979 the first democratic elections in many years were held in Spain. The Socialists took the already fascinating city of Barcelona, but quickly discovered an urban planning that could best be described as chaotic: patchy suburbs sitting uncomfortably along third world huts and lean-tos, and of course an inevitable deficit. The City needed a new common project and something to aspire to. Thus were the games mooted. Things really started to move. A plan was founded, and a close implication of authorities and individual citizens presented what Barcelona had to offer to the International Olympic Committee.

It is difficult to convey the euphoria at the announcement of the results. Every Barcelonian remembers where they were on the day of the decision. There was a party in Plaza Catalunya which moved along Las Ramblas before finishing up at Plaza España in the early hours. “What is good for Barcelona is good for Catalunya. What is good for Catlaunya is good for Espana!” said the Mayor Pascual Maragall. “Visca Barcelona!” Such sentiment would be difficult if not impossible to express today, but in that era Citizen, Council, Local Authority and Central Government came together in an idyllic way armed with a common objective.

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Almost 10 000 athletes came from over 150 countries. The Games gave Barcelona the opportunity to transform, and to do so in just such a way that the changes were permanent; the planners didn’t want infrastructure that would fall into disuse at the close of the Games and convert into ruin in a short space of time. By-passes were built which altered immensely the viability of the City. Poble-Nou, full of collapsing factories and rife with poverty was transformed to host the Olympic Village . Old industries gave way to breathe new life into the landscape. The athletes apartments were later sold on to the public at a fixed rate. Of note was the recuperation of the mountain for the use of the general public, where the majority of the Games were based and competed. Today it is cloaked in parks and attractions, and sports and recreation abound. But the most spectacular part of the Games legacy was the opening to the seas. The Games liberated vast swathes of land and re-connected the City to the Mediterranean. The coastline was completely transformed. The biggest obstacle was the oldest railway line in Spain which left a deep scar on the facade of the City, hopelessly separating the centre and the sea as it hugged the coast. Huge changes were made to the route before it was buried, deep and forever in another part of town. Thanks to this Barcelona today enjoys kilometres of unspoilt beach and easily accesible coast. In the transition from the old to the new sparkling Olympian City many landmarks disappeared, some evocative, others downright offensive. Gone forever were the shacks (chavolas) and simple cabins from the mountain side, entire poverty-ridden neighbourhoods fell under the bulldozers and wrecking balls. Dispatched never to return were the chiringuitos of la Barceloneta, where paella was eaten until well into the night. These half-despicable, half-desirable bar-restaurants, where wine was partaken of, where fighting and fun loving were common are gone, now nothing more than memories buried in the sand.

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Another question is what became of the actual installations. Music as much as sport has been their legacy. Concerts keep the two main arena open and financially autonomous. RCD Español football team played home in the Estadi Olympic for many years. Nowadays it is a private sports initiative, financially independent. The velodrome, rowing canal and swimming/diving pools are all still in full use.
As can happen, after the fame there was a wave of depression; there has been to date no new global plan for the City, no common project that creates the same bonhomie, although granted, the Olympics are a hard game to follow. Some smaller initiatives abounded with varying levels of success. @22 opened with the grand illusion of a technological paradise. Billion were spent on the Forum as a Global-Cultural reference-point and to serve as a new enjoining initiative for the City, but the development has had many critics and fails to live up to its initial hope, propaganda and promise. Since 92 many emblematic buildings have spring up, the Torre Agbar (the big red dildo) or the Hotel Vela (mini Dubai). Currently the Council is embedded in a major Traffic & Circulation Regeneration Plan which has cost more than a few political scalps over the years, as well as several hundreds of millions, and the re-modelation of several neighbourhoods, but these are ongoing projects with the final result yet to be seem.

The legacy of the Barcelona project is not only architectural, but moral. It was an opportunity for civic pride, to reclaim the essence of being Barcelones, a feeling which still exists today. The city quickly became the place which piqued interest. For evidence look at the exponential tourism figures which it has consequentially and controversially enjoyed since then. Thirty years have passed since Barcelona began the dream and lived the halcyon days of an Olympic spectacle. Mayor Pasquall Maragall fell victim to Alzheimer’s, and forgot the glorious memories of the Games in the City. It is poignant and to his memory that the millions who still live in the captivating fascinating marvellous City that is Barcelona do still remember, and with quiet pride.



the bull run. queen medb. cú chulainn. the history of the south was made in the north.

The Táin Bó Cuailnge forms part of the eighth century Ulster Cycle of tales. In this epic story Cúchulainn, the Hound of Ulster almost single-handedly resists the invading armies of the King and Queen of Connaught, Ailill and Medb.

Much of early Irish literature has been lost. Much of what remains is contained in a few large medieval scripts. These are broadly divided into four main groups:

  • Mythological stories regarding the Tuatha Dé Danann (The Tribes of the Goddess Danu) an ancient devine race who inhabited Ireland before the coming of the Celts.
  • The Ulster Cycle, dealing with King Conchobor and the champions of the Red Branch, chief of whom is Cu Culainn, Hound of Ulster.
  • The Fenian Cycle, the stories of Finn mac Cumaill, his son Oisín and the other fiana.
  • A group of stories centred on various kings who reigned between the 3rd Century BC and the 8th Century AD.

The oldest of these manuscripts, Lebor na hUidre, was compiled in Clonmacnoise Monastery in the 12th Century. It contains a battered text, part of the earliest known form of the Táin. But the origin is far more ancient. The language might date to the 8th Century, but some of the passages may be two centuries older, as scholars agree that early Irish Literature had a loing oral history before being comitted to text.

The Ulster Cycle was traditionally believed to refer to the time of Christ. It has many parallels with Greek and Roman writings describing the customs of the Gauls and Celtic tradition and practice. Due to Ireland’s unique and isolated postion on the Atlantic Board it is possible that the culture described might have survived in Ireland right up until the introduction of Christianity in Ireland around about the 5th Century. 

The Táin lacks a number of elements; an actual motive for the Connacht invasion of Ulster, the reason behind a mysterious debilitating illness that the Ulstermen suffer for the better part of the work among others. Fortunately, there exist many remscéla (pre-tales), which, while not strictly part of the story, help to furnish missing details and aid in understanding the main work.  

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Economy of Northern Ireland

Currency Pound Sterling (GBP£)
Trade organisations
GDP €43.432 billion (nominal) / €39.873 billion (PPP)
GDP growth
1.4% (2015)
GDP per capita
€23,700 (nominal) / €21,800 (PPP)
Decrease -0.1% (Nov 2015)
14,000 (£)
Labour force
887,000 (Jan 2016)
Unemployment 5.9% (Jan 2016)
Average gross salary
£1,819 / €2,473 / $2,797 (monthly)
Main industries
Services, construction, agriculture, public sector
Increase6th (UK)[5]
Exports £6.327 billion (2015) [6]
Export goods
Main export partners
 EU total (54.7%)

 Ireland (33.4%)
 United States (17.6%)
 Canada (5.8%)
 Germany (5.3%)
 France (4.8%)

Imports £6.078 billion (2015) [6]
Import goods
Main import partners
 EU total (55.1%)

 Ireland (27.2%)
 China (16.5%)
 United States (8.2%)
 Germany (6.1%)
 Netherlands (5.7%)

Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars.

The economy of Northern Ireland is the smallest of the four countries of the United KingdomNorthern Ireland previously had a traditionally industrial economy, most notably in shipbuildingrope manufacture and textiles, but most heavy industry has since been replaced by services. To this day, Northern Ireland still suffers from the results of the Troubles, which occurred between the late 1960s until the mid-1990s.


Output and economic growth

Northern Ireland has the smallest economy of any of the twelve NUTS 1 regions of the United Kingdom, at £27.4bn (€37.8bn), or about two-thirds of the size of the next smallest, North East England. However, this is partly because Northern Ireland has the smallest population; at £15,200 (€21,000) Northern Ireland has a greater GDP per capita than both North East England and Wales.

Other comparisons[edit]

Republic of Ireland: Border Midlands & West (1.1m) Republic of Ireland: Southern & Eastern (3.2m) United Kingdom: Northern Ireland (1.8m)
£21.8bn (€30bn) £103bn (€142bn) £27.4bn (€37.8bn)
£17,200 (€23,700) per person £28,950 (€39,900) per person £15,200 (€21,000) per person

Throughout the 1990s, the Northern Irish economy grew faster than did the economy of the rest of the UK, due in part to the Celtic Tiger rapid growth of the economy of the Republic of Ireland and the so-called “peace dividend”. Growth slowed to the pace of the rest of the UK during the down-turn of the early years of the new millennium, but growth has since rebounded; in 2005, the Northern Irish economy is estimated to have grown by 3.2%, almost twice as fast as the UK as a whole, and future growth is expected to be stronger than that of the rest of the United Kingdom, though lower than that of the Republic. In April 2007 a Halifax survey found Northern Ireland’s average house price to one of the highest in the UK, behind London, the South East and the South West. It also found Northern Ireland to have all of the top ten property “hot spots”, with the Craigavon and Newtownards areas increasing by 55%.


Unemployment in Northern Ireland has decreased substantially in recent years, and is now roughly at 6.1%, down from a peak of 17.2% in 1986. Youth unemployment and long-term unemployment have fallen most quickly. Working-age economic inactivity is 28%, which is the highest of any UK region.

Northern Ireland’s macroeconomy is also characterised by considerably longer actual working hours and lower gender income disparity than in the United Kingdom as a whole.


During the Troubles, Northern Ireland received little foreign investment.

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, investment in Northern Ireland has increased significantly. Most investment has been focused in Greater Belfast and to a lesser extent Greater Derry. Major projects include the £400 million Victoria Square retail development in Belfast City Centre. The city will hosts the largest waterfront development in Europe with the Titanic Quarter[16] scheme, costing over £1 billion and taking seven years to complete. The Laganside Corporation has been at the forefront of the redevelopment of the riverfront along the banks of the River Lagan, to date the corporation has overseen the investment of over £800 million in the riverside area. The Cathedral Quarter has also seen substantial investment. In Londonderry/Derry, the ILEX Urban Regeneration Company has responsibility for driving forward the regeneration of the city. It is currently charged with redeveloping Ebrington Square and Fort George and creating 12,000 new jobs in the city by 2020. The Culture Company is charged with running events and programmes during the city’s stint as City of Culture in 2013.

In addition, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment has commissioned MATRIX, the Northern Ireland Science Industry Panel,to advise government on the commercial exploitation of R&D and science and technology in Northern Ireland.

The Matrix Panel aims to grow NIs wealth by encouraging the exploitation of its science and R&D base. The work has shown that there is still a need for greater exploitation of science and technology and a step-change in innovation in the economy and workplaces.

The Panel’s recommendations are the result of a collaborative effort of technology industry leaders and experts in Northern Ireland.


Agriculture in Northern Ireland is heavily mechanised, thanks to high labour costs and heavy capital investment, both from private investors and the European Union‘s Common Agricultural Policy. In 2000, agriculture accounted for 2.4% of economic output in Northern Ireland, compared to 1% in the United Kingdom as a whole. As in the rest of the United Kingdom, livestock and dairy account for the majority of agricultural output. The main crops are (in descending order of value) potatoesbarley, and wheat.



Heavy industry is concentrated in and around Belfast, although other major towns and cities also have heavy manufacturing areas. Machinery and equipment manufacturing, food processingtextile and electronics manufacturing are the leading industries. Other industries such as papermakingfurniture manufacturing, aerospace and shipbuilding are also important, concentrated mostly in the eastern parts of Northern Ireland. Of these different industries, one of the most notable is that of Northern Ireland’s fine linens, which is considered as one of the most well-known around Europe.

Although its share of economic output has declined, manufacturing output in Northern Ireland has remained almost unchanged over the past five years, after a period of steep manufacturing growth between 1998 and 2001. However, this overall picture of health hides a dramatic shift in manufacturing priorities, with the decline of traditional industries, such as textiles and shipbuilding, at the expense of high tech and capital-intensive industries. In 2005, chemicals and engineering (both of which belong firmly to the latter group) were the only two manufacturing sub-sectors to record growth, whilst output of textiles fell by 18%.

Engineering is the largest manufacturing sub-sector in Northern Ireland, particularly in the fields of aerospace and heavy machinery. Bombardier Aerospace is the province’s largest industrial employer, with 5,400 workers at five sites in the Greater Belfast area. Other major engineering employers in Northern Ireland include Bombardier AerospaceCaterpillarDuPontEmerson ElectricFujitsuNorthbrook TechnologySeagate and NACCO. Many of these manufacturers receive British government financial backing, and enjoy close academic and business links with Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Ulster, of which Queen’s University Belfast ranks as one of the best British universities for all engineering courses.

Belfast’s famous shipyard, Harland and Wolff, which in the early 20th century was the world’s biggest shipbuilder, suffered from intense international competition during the 1970s and 1980s and declined rapidly. During the 1990s the company diversified into civil engineering and industrial fabrication, manufacturing bridges and oil platforms. The company made an unsuccessful bid to build the Queen Mary 2, which it was hoped would re-stimulate the yard’s shipbuilding business. The vast works on Queen’s Island were downsized, with much of the land (including the slipway where RMS Titanic was built) sold off for redevelopment in the 2000s as the ‘Titanic Quarter’- a new residential, commercial and high-tech industrial district. The modern, smaller yard employs only 800 people. H&W have not built a ship since 2003, but has seen workload increase through being involved in shipbreaking, ship repair and maintenance and conversion work. The company has also been active in the design and construction of offshore power generation equipment- both wind turbines and wave-action turbines.


As with all developed economies, services account for the majority of employment and output. Services account for almost 70% of economic output, and 78% of employees.


Despite the negative image of Northern Ireland held in many foreign countries, on account of the Troubles, tourism is an important part of the Northern Irish economy. In 2004, tourism revenue rose 7% to £325m, or over 1% of the local economy, on the back of a rise of 4% in total visits to 2.1 m in the year. Tourism is considered likely to become one of the main growth areas of the economy in the near future, with the continuation of the peace process and the normalisation of the image of Northern Ireland internationally. The most popular tourist attractions include the historic cities of DerryBelfast and Armagh, the Giant’s Causeway, and Northern Ireland’s many castles. The NI 2012 Our Time, Our Place tourism campaign created by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board generated a profit of £31 million in 2012 (subtracting November and December) the first six months of 2013, according to a study by an independent researcher commissioned by the organization. High-profile events initiated by the program include the opening of the £77 million Titanic Belfast and the construction of a Giant’s Causeway visitor’s centre.

Public sector

As of December 2008 the public sector in Northern Ireland accounted for 30.8% of the total workforce. This is significantly higher than the overall UK figure of 19.5%, and also higher than Scotland, the next nearest region at 24%. Overall, the figure for Northern Ireland has fallen. In 1992 the public sector accounted for 37% of the workforce. When measured relative to population, the gap between the Northern Ireland and UK figures reduces to three percentage points.

In total, the British government subvention totals £5,000m, or 20% of Northern Ireland’s economic output.


The official currency in use in Northern Ireland is the British pound sterling. Although the euro, in use in the Republic of Ireland, is accepted by retailing chains closer to the border with the Republic of Ireland.

In addition, four Northern Irish banks retain the right to print their own sterling-denominated banknotes: Bank of IrelandFirst Trust BankNorthern Bank, and Ulster Bank.


Northern Ireland’s total primary energy consumption is approximately 4.90 million tonnes of oil equivalent. The vast majority of this energy comes from fossil fuels.

Energy policy in the province is maintained by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

Primary energy consumption
Source ktoe %

Coal 1,440 29.4
Oil & LPG 1,290 26.3
Natural Gas 1,100 22.4
Vehicle fuel 926 18.9
Renewables 10 0.2
Electricity imports 140 2.8

Total 4,900 100


Northern Ireland’s electrical grid is operated by System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) and the distribution is managed by Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) which owns and manages the infrastructure which connects over 850,000 customers. Electricity consumption in Northern Ireland was 7,867 GW·h in 2002/3. At 4.6 MW·h per person, this is 18% less than that of the rest of the United Kingdom (5.6 MW·h per person). The main power station is located at Ballylumford, and is operated by Premier Power. There is also Coolkeeragh power station in Greater Derry. The electricity grid throughout all of Ireland is operated as a single system, with separate control center’s in Dublin and Belfast.

Northern Ireland’s electrical grid is connected to that of the Republic of Ireland by three cross-border interconnectors. The main interconnector, between Tandragee and Louth has a capacity of 1,200 MW. Two back-up interconnectors have a combined capacity of 240 MW. This combined all-island grid is connected to the National Grid on the island of Great Britain by the 500 MW Moyle interconnector, under the North Channel.


Investors recently have announced plans to begin fracking of gas in Northern Ireland.[citation needed] Gas for the Greater Belfast area is supplied via the Scotland-Northern Ireland pipeline(SNIP), a 24-inch-diameter (610 mm) interconnector pipeline. SSE Airtricity and firmus energy supply gas to the Greater Belfast area via Phoenix Natural Gas‘ network.

In the other areas of Northern Ireland, specifically towards Derry City, gas comes from two interconnector pipelines, one being supplied by the Republic’s gas supplier, Bord Gáis. The North-West pipeline from Carrickfergus in County Antrim to Derry opened in November 2004, and the South-North pipeline from Gormanston (in the Republic) to Antrim was opened in October 2006. The complete South-North pipeline to Dublin opened in November 2007, passing Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon and Newry. Since December 2005, Bord Gáis has supplied gas to residential customers in this area under the name firmus energy.


Northern Ireland has under-developed transport infrastructure with most infrastructure concentrated on Greater Belfast, Greater Derry and Craigavon. Northern Ireland has a total of 24,820 km (15,420 mi) of roads, or 1 km for each 68 people (1 mi for each 109 people), which is considerably more than in the United Kingdom as a whole (1 km per 162 people). There are seven motorways in Northern Ireland, extending radially from Belfast, and connecting that city to AntrimDungannonLisburnNewtownabbey, and Portadown.

Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) runs passenger trains and presently carries no freight though it is possible to carry freight. NIR is owned by the people of Northern Ireland and has embarked upon significant investment on the Belfast-Derry railway line to upgrade the infrastructure between Belfast and Derry the largest cities in Northern Ireland. NIR connects Belfast Great Victoria Street and Belfast Central to AntrimBallymenaColerainePortrushLondonderry along the Northern Corridor and the Belfast Suburban Rail network serves places near Belfast, along with the Enterprise (train service) connecting LisburnPortadownNewry and across the border along the Dublin-Belfast railway line to Dublin Connolly.

Northern Ireland Railways could be extended by re-opening railway lines such as from Portadown to Armagh railway station in Armagh.

Northern Ireland is home to three civilian airports: Belfast CityBelfast International, and City of Derry. In terms of Airport rail link connections only Belfast City Airport is served by train from Sydenham station on the Bangor Line.

Major seaports in Northern Ireland include the Port of Belfast, the Londonderry Port and the Port of Larne. The Port of Belfast is one of the chief ports of the United Kingdom, handling 17 million tonnes (16.7 million long tons) of goods in 2005,[33] equivalent to two-thirds of Northern Ireland’s seaborne trade.

In addition to these existing links, several organisations have proposed a tunnel under the North Channel, with one possible site connecting the eastern part of Northern Ireland to Wigtownshire. The idea has been given technical consideration since the 19th century, but, as of 2012, no major political party has advocated such a link, due to financial constraints.


The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) is the principal source of official statistics on Northern Ireland. These statistics and research inform public policy and associated debate in the wider society. NISRA is an Agency of the Department of Finance and Personnel.

Alongside official national statistics a number of respected private sector surveys are used to understand how the economy is performing. These include the British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey.[35]This survey has information on the performance of Northern Irish businesses since 1989.

Regional Disparity / North-South Divide


According to Eurostat figures there are huge regional disparities in the UK with GDP per capita ranging from £11,000 (€15,000) in West Wales to £130,450 (€179,800) in Inner-London West. There are 26 areas in the UK where the GDP per person is under £14,500 (€20,000).

These areas are the following:

4.5 million (8.5% of English) live in these deprived English districts. 11 of these deprived regions in England: Durham, Northumberland, Greater Manchester North, Blackpool, Sefton, Wirral, Barnsley Doncaster Rotherham, South Nottinghamshire, Dudley, Outer London – East North East, Torbay

1.4 million (45% of Welsh) live in these deprived Welsh districts. 6 of these deprived regions in Wales: Isle of Anglesey, Conwy & Denbighshire, South West Wales, Central Valleys, Gwent Valley, Powys

1.1 million (20% of Scottish)live in these deprived Scottish districts. 5 of these deprived regions in Scotland: Clackmannshire & Fife, East & Mid Lothian, East & West Dumbartonshire, East & North Ayrshire, Caithness Sutherland & Ross,

1.1 million (60% of Northern Irish) live in these deprived Northern Irish districts. 3 of these in Northern Ireland: Outer Belfast, North of Northern Ireland, West & South of Northern Ireland.

Comparison with France and the Republic of Ireland

When compared to France, GDP per capita ranges from £13,700 (€18,900) in French Overseas Territories to £67,000 (€92,300) in Hauts-de-Seine and France has only 4 regions where GDP per capita is under £14,500 (€20,000). This suggests the level of social equality is much greater in France than in the UK.

Comparing it to the Republic of Ireland, GDP per capita ranges from £14,600 (€20,100) in Irish Midlands to £41,500 (€57,200) in Dublin There are no regions in the Republic of Ireland where GDP per person is under £14,500 (€20,000).

External links




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