Economy of Belfast

Economy of Belfast

The economy of Belfast, Northern Ireland has changed dramatically since 1600. Belfast's expansion from a town to a city in the nineteenth century was funded by trade through Belfast Harbour. The Industrial Revolution boosted the city's population and at the beginning of the 20th century the city was both the largest producer of linen in the worldcite book | last = Beckett | first = JC | coauthors = Boyle, E | title = Belfast, The Making of the City. Chapter 3: "Linenopolis": the rise of the textile industry | publisher = Appletree Press Ltd | date = 2003 | location = Belfast | pages = pp41-56 | id = 0862818788] and also boasted the world's largest shipyard.cite web | title = Introduction To Titanic - Titanic In History | work = Titanic. Built in Belfast | publisher = Ulster Folk and Transport Museum | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-18] The Troubles crippled the city's industry for many years but with the recent republican and loyalist ceasefires, and the St Andrews Agreement in 2006, the city's economy is thriving once again.

History of the economy

When the population of Belfast town began to grow in the seventeenth century, its economy was built on commerce.cite book | last = Beckett | first = JC | coauthors = et al. | title = Belfast, The Making of the City. Chapter 1: Belfast to the end of the eighteenth century | publisher = Appletree Press Ltd | date = 2003 | location = Belfast | pages = pp13-26 | id = 0862818788] It provided a market for the surrounding countryside and the natural inlet of Belfast Lough gave the city its own port. The port supplied an avenue for trade with the mainland and later Europe and North America. In the mid-seventeenth century, Belfast exported beef, butter, hides, tallow and corn and it imported coal, cloth, wine, brandy, paper, timber and tobacco. Around this time, the linen trade in Northern Ireland blossomed and by the middle of the eighteenth century, one fifth of all the linen exported from Ireland was shipped from Belfast.. The present city however is a product of the Industrial Revolution.cite book | title = The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. | publisher = Columbia University Press | date = 2005 | url =] It was not until industry transformed the linen and shipbuilding trades that the economy and the population boomed. By the turn of the nineteenth century, Belfast had transformed into the largest linen producing centre in the worldcite book | last = Beckett | first = JC | coauthors = Boyle, E | title = Belfast, The Making of the City. Chapter 3: "Linenopolis": the rise of the textile industry | publisher = Appletree Press Ltd | date = 2003 | location = Belfast | pages = pp41-56 | id = 0862818788] , earning the nickname "Linenopolis".

Belfast harbour was dredged in 1845 to provide deeper berths for larger ships. Donegall Quay was built out into the river as the harbour was developed further and trade flourished.cite book | last = Beckett | first = JC | coauthors = Sweetman, R | title = Belfast, The Making of the City. Chapter 4: The development of the port | publisher = Appletree Press Ltd | date = 2003 | location = Belfast | pages = pp57-70 | id = 0862818788] The Harland and Wolff shipbuilding firm was created in 1861 and by the time the Titanic was built in Belfast in 1912, they boasted the largest shipyard in the world.

The rise of mass-produced and cotton clothing following World War I were some of the factors which led to the decline of Belfast's international linen trade. Like many British cities dependent on traditional heavy industry, Belfast suffered serious decline since the 1960s, exacerbated greatly in the 1970s and 1980s by The Troubles. More than 100,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since the 1970s.cite journal | title = Northern Ireland - Where is the bright new future? | journal = Management Today | date = 2006-03-23 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-16] . For several decades, Northern Ireland's fragile economy required significant public support from the British exchequer of up to GB£4 billion per year. Ongoing sectarian violence has made it difficult for Belfast to compete with Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy, with Dublin producing some 70bn Euro GDP annually.

Current economy

However, the IRA Ceasefire in 1995 and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 have given investors increased confidence to invest in Belfast. This has led to a period of sustained economic growth and large-scale redevelopment of the city centre. New developments include Victoria Square, the Cathedral Quarter, and the Laganside with the new Odyssey complex and the landmark Waterfront Hall. Two other major developments will see the regeneration of the Titanic Quarter, and the erection the Obel Tower, a skyscraper set to be the tallest tower on the island until eclipsed by the U2 Tower in Dublin. [cite news | title = U2 Tower strikes bad chord with residents | publisher = BBC News | date = 2006-08-07 | url = | accessdate = 2007-03-13] In 2007, Belfast's launched its vision for a World Trade Centre (currently a 'virtual' centre but with plans to become a physical building) which aims to promote the city to the international business market. [cite web | title = World Trade Centre Belfast | publisher = Belfast City Council | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-18]

Today, Belfast is Northern Ireland's educational and commercial hub. It is now in the top five fastest growing regional economies in the UK.cite web | title = Belfast...never been a better time! | work = Investment Belfast | publisher = Belfast City Council | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-18] In February 2006, Belfast's unemployment rate stood at 4.2%, lower than both the Northern Ireland [cite web | title = Monthly Labour Market Report | publisher = Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment | date = 2006-02-15 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-18] and the UK average of 5.5%. [cite web | title = Employment | work = National Statistics | publisher = Office of National Statistics | date = 2006-03 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-18] Over the past 10 years employment has grown by 16.4 per cent, compared with 9.2 per cent for the UK as a whole. [Citation | last = Morgan | first = Oliver | title = From bombs and bullets to boom towns | newspaper = Guardian Unlimited | year = 2007 | date = 04-01-2007 | url =,,2047327,00.html | accessdate = 2007-05-16]

Northern Ireland's peace dividend has also led to soaring property prices in the city. In 2006, Belfast saw house prices grow by 43%, the fastest rate of growth in the UK. [cite press release | title = 2006 City Movers and Shakers | publisher = Nationwide Building Society | date = 2007-01-01 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-18] In March 2007, the average house in Belfast cost GB£191,819, with the average in South Belfast being GB£241,000. [cite news | last =Carson | first = Helen | title = Typical price of Ulster home edges ever closer to GB£200,000 | publisher = Belfast Telegraph | date = 2007-02-28 | url = | accessdate = 2007-03-13] In 2004, Belfast had the lowest owner occupation rate in Northern Ireland at 54%. [cite press release | title = House Owner Occupation Rates | publisher = Halifax | date = 2004-11-19 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-18|format=DOC]

Peace has also boosted the numbers of tourists coming to Belfast. There were 6.4 million visitors in 2005, which was a growth of 8.5% from 2004. The visitors spent GB£285.2 million, supporting over 15,600 jobs. [Citation | title = Belfast 2005: Tourism Facts and Figures | place = Belfast | publisher = Belfast City Council | year = 2006 | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-18] The city's two airports have also made the city into one of the most visited weekend destinations in Europe. [cite web | title = Invest in Belfast: A 2007 City Guide for Investors | publisher = Belfast City Council | url = | accessdate = 2007-05-18]

ee also

* Economy of Northern Ireland
* Belfast
* Belfast City Centre
* Dublin-Belfast corridor

*Economy of Cork
*Economy of Dublin
*Economy of Limerick


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