The Two Belfasts – Street-scapes of Inequality

While much of Belfast is pristine, with lots of 21st century money and glass and capitalism, it only takes a short gander of the main street to see shades of a city ravaged by bombs and fires. The following photos illustrate this.

This mall is at the centre of Belfast’s capitalist prosperity. But take two steps down an alley and the picture changes.

Ok, this is a cheap way to creep the Palestinian issue into yet another blogpost. But to be honest, to see Occupy and Palestinian graffiti, well, at least it isn’t dissident republican graffiti (of which I saw a disturbing amount in Derry). But more generally what I’m illustrating is the radical storefront inequality – on the main drag the rents are obviously very high, but as soon as you step off of it, everything is closed. 

Like this place for instance (directly to the left of previous image).

Or this one (a few steps father to the left).

Turn around from the previous perspective, and you are faced full on with the reality of Belfast’s troubled history. So many bombs disturbed these streets, and while the North Arcade (pictured here) wasn’t bombed, there were paramilitary links to its arsen. Still, looking at the place, you get a sense of its former grandeur, and you wonder why it hasn’t been rebuilt. But then you get it – they can’t rebuild everything, in fact, some of the modern richness you see in some areas of the Belfast city centre might be in a sense a result of bombings and attacks – because stores were pushed out of this arcade they would have needed to move somewhere, so why not move to the new glass mall (seen above). Such is life, such is moving on. But the stark inequality from street to street reminds the citizens here as well as visitors of the political violence which defined this city for thirty years.


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