City Center, Belfast, N. Ireland
There are a few terms and phrases that I’ll be using in my posts that might need to be translated. Some of them might be incorrect, but I’ll try to get them squared away as I’m corrected.
Euro (€) – currently in use in the Republic of Ireland and much of Western Europe. It’s quite “artsy” and currently trades at €1 = $.95 (1:1 for quick conversion). Take a look HERE to see the different notes. Why do we have such ugly notes in the States?
Pound / Sterling (£) – currently in use as the only form of currency in Northern Ireland. I believe it’s trading for £.70 to $1.00 US. Also, relatively attractive and colorful notes. Minor exception to those printed in England.
Weights and Measures
Distance: on road signs, distance is measured in miles. So, too, are speed limits. Otherwise, all else is metric.
“Stones” – 14 lbs. I hear this used a great deal.
Entirely European english. Local slang can be quite confusing. Most road signs, even in the Republic, are written in English and Gaelic.
I actually overheard an entirely Gaelic conversation in McDonald’s the first day. That was quite surprising. Some talk radio shows are in Gaelic also.
Republicans: Those wishing for self-rule in Northern Ireland and/or becoming part of the Republic of Ireland.
Religious Affiliation: Catholic.
Military organizations: IRA, Sinn Fein, etc.
Symbols: Irish Flag, “H” (for H-Block where the hunger strikers in ’81 died in protest seeking political prisoner status)
Colors: The Irish Tri-Color: Gold, white and green.
Predominant Locations in Belfast: West-side
Loyalists and Unionists: Those “loyal” to the British crown and wish to maintain the union with Great Brittain in Northern Ireland.
Religious affiliation: Protestant.
Military Organizations: UFF (Ulster Freedom Fighters), UDA (Ulster Defense Association), the local police.
Symbols: The Union Jack flag, the Ulster flag (white with red cross and red hand in center), the Scottish flag of St. Andrew (blue with white cross).
Colors: Red, White, Blue.
Predominant Locations in Belfast: East-side
Neighborhoods in middle to lower-income areas of Belfast are either mostly Republican or Loyalist from what I can determine so far.
Determining the affiliation of your current location is pretty straightforward. First, look for flags hanging from homes and light posts. I’ve seen more Irish flags than anything, but I’ve also been in predominately Catholic neighborhoods. In Loyalist sections, I’ve seen a number of Union Jacks and a few Ulster flags. Also, the curbs tend to be painted in red, white and blue.
Some territorial markings are far less subtle. In one Loyalist area a few blocks from where I’m sitting in City Center, a 4 story building is painted on one side in a massive mural depicting a masked gunman carrying an AK-47 with the words, “Now entering loyalist territory.”
In Republican (Catholic) areas, murals are painted in memorial of the hunger-strikers, those killed by rubber bullets in recent years and general protest of British occupation. Irish flags and masked gunmen are also common.