Northern Ireland News 

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The New York Times, July 23, 1882:




    BELFAST, July 10.--Of Dublin the visitor might say that its glares are in the past, that its present dull and commonplace, and that the possiblities of its future must be measured by contingencies not likely soon to happen. It is the centre of much political activity, and that is all. Its social brilliancy is gone. Its industrial and commercial life is all but extinct.

    Coming to Belfast, the same observer will be amazed at the contrast. Here all is activity and growth. In 50 years the population has increased six-fold. A petty town has acquired the proportions of a striking city. Industries which in the life-time of residents struggled for existence have gained national pre-eminence. A commerce inferior to that of several towns in Ireland has become superior to that of all. The very opposite of the judgement passed upon the Irish metropolis is applicable to the chief place in the province of Ulster. Belfast has had a rapid but solid growth, and only some great catastrophe--some terrible but possible political revolution--can jeopardize its industrial and mercantile greatness.

    The contrast is the more noticable because it comes upon unawares. For more than 80 of the 113 miles traveled in the direct journey from Dublin to Belfast the outlook is of the ordinary Irish type. There is a little more arable farming than in the south or west; there are hedges instead of stone walls, and the fields are in somewhat better trim...

    A passing glimpse of Newry tells of nearness to business activity and of the "dirty streets" which Swift sarcastically linked with the record of "proud people." Portadown emphasizes the change, and Lisburn brings us face to face with its manufacturing results. Both are growing towns, and Lisburn especially--with linen mills and busy streets, with public grounds and street fountains--gives evidence of an advance toward importance. Private enterprise is here in full strength, and Sir Richard Wallace fosters munificently the improvement and adornment of the town. The neighboring farmers are better off. Labor is drawn into Lisburn and prospers there.

    The partisan complexion of things also undergoes material modification. Drogheda, the first of the town constituencies north of Dublin, sends a Home Ruler to Parliament. Dundalk, 22 miles further, is content with the constitutional liberalism of its representative. At Lisburn, on the other hand, we are in the dominion of Orangeism, and full-blown Toryism sits supreme.

    The approach to Belfast is not picturesque--it is not even pretty. It is, however, on all sides suggestive of varied industry. The linen manufacture predominates, and to the success which has rewarded its enterprise in this direction Belfast owes most of its prosperity. Not all of it, as the great ship-building yard which sends forth the White Star steamers--among many large enterprises--plainly shows. Prosperous the city evidently is... The great mills are in full work. Solid and capacious warehouses forming street after street are scenes of almost uniform activity. The display of shops in other streets is very fine; the shops themselves are good, and the articles exhibited indicate a demand for excellence and luxury. Markets are clean and well-supplied--cleaner and better-supplied than those of Dublin.

    All the business premises are occupied. There are no groups of idle or unemployed men; everybody willing to work has all the work he wants, and the average sufficiency of the wages is best exemplified by the prevalence of a decent degree of comfort in the quarters where the working people dwell...

    In such a community politics are not the only nor even the first topic of talk. "Business first, politics afterward," seems to be the Belfast maxim... When, however, they get outside of business and touch politics, you discover that, with much of the Scotsman's character, they have little or none of his liberalism... They are Tories of the type which the Scottish trader holds in abhorrence... Broach the Irish question, and you are told that there can be no satisfactory settlement of it save that which presupposes the supremacy in Irish politics of the Orange element.

    A concise statement of the Orange idea, as heard in Belfast, would be something like this:

    The British connection with Ireland is possible only so long as the imperial policy shall accept as its basis certain fundamental principles of the Orange institution. One of these principles is distrust of and hostility to the Roman Catholic Church, its organization and its purposes.
    That the Catholics are an overwhelming majority in Ireland is immaterial; the essential notion is that the Catholic is the enemy of Great Britain, and that the Orange minority are the friends of Great Britain, on whom alone it can rely in times of trouble.
    Hence every concession or proposed concession to the Catholic Church is to be opposed. For the same reason Home Rule, in the sense that satisfies native Home Rulers, is to be condemned. Under Home Rule Leinster, Munster, and Connaught would be solid against the Orange minority, and with the subjection of the Orange minority the last vestige of resistance to absolute independence would disapper from Ireland.

    Such as I understand it is the Orange version of the case...

    But though the Orangemen predominate in Ulster and control its Parliamentary representation, the Home Rule Party is gradually acquiring a firm foothold. Belfast grows apace, and in the growth of population and industries elements enter for which the Orangemen do not make sufficient allowance. Sir Richard Wallace easily carries Lisburn in his pocket. Neither Belfast nor Londonderry can be managed so easily. In both the Home Rulers are relatively strong, and they are not afraid to make themselves heard... they gain ground, they have their own newspapers, and quietly, but not ineffectively, they are operating in most of the small towns throughout the province...

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