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Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, situated on the banks of the River Lagan. It was granted county borough by Queen Victoria in 1888, at that time it was the largest city in Ireland and third most important port in the United Kingdom.


It was a major port and key in the Irish Industrial Revolution. Once the largest producer of linen, it was also a major force in the processing of tobacco, ropemaking, and the shipbuilding industry. The RMS Titanic was built in Belfast.


The Irish had been demanding that Britain grant them the right to self-governance since the mid-1870s, and even then, many wanted complete independence.


The Irish War of Independence began in 1919, and the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed on December 6, 1921. There was quite a bit of “fine-tuning” after the treaty was signed, but in the end, Ireland was partitioned into two countries: the Irish Free State which was made up of nearly 100% Catholic, and the newly-created country of Northern Ireland which consisted mostly of Protestants with a Catholic minority. The Free State of Ireland was completely independent from the United Kingdom, while Northern Ireland remained under British rule. Belfast became the capital of Northern Ireland.


From the beginning of the partition, there were constant complaints from Northern Ireland’s minority Catholics of discrimination and unfair treatment by the government and police in Belfast and Derry. Eventually, the two sides became polarized with the Protestant loyalists on one side and the Catholic nationalists on the other. Paramilitary groups formed on both sides, with Belfast becoming the centre of action.


Tempers remained in high gear, and on August 12, 1969, a perfectly legal loyalist parade sparked three days of rioting and violence dubbed The Battle of Bogside. The loyalists in Northern Ireland regularly organized parades to commemorate Protestant military victories. The parades went past Bogside, a neighborhood of Catholics, and those in the neighborhood saw the parades as an affront to their cause and territory.


Word spread, and loyalist groups across the fledging country took to the streets. Barricades were erected, Molotov cocktails were ready. As the loyalists marched through Bogside, the nationalist Bogsiders reacted, and clashes ensued. Royal Ulster Constabulary. The police force in Ireland, hurried in to stop the rioting. They were met with hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails. For three days, the battled continued.


The most damage happened in Belfast where mobs of loyalists converged on Catholic neighborhoods, burning 1,500 to the ground. Much of the damage was inflicted by police force on either side.


On August 14, Northern Ireland's prime minister called for the government of Britain to send troops into Belfast to help the overwhelmed Northern Ireland forces to restore order. This began the decades-long deployment by the British military in Northern Ireland.


The Battle of Bogside was, most historians say, the beginning of the Troubles.


When they were first called in to help with the violence of Bogside, the British troops are welcomed by the Catholic nationalists, but the foreign troops initiated a policy of "internment without trial." Shortly hundreds of people suspected of being IRA members were sought out and imprisoned with no due process.


January 30, 1972, Catholic nationalists organized a march in Derry to protest the policy of the internment policy. The military stepped in to shut the march down. The protesters did not allow them to shut it down, and the troops fired first rubber bullets and then live rounds into the crowd. They killed 13 unarmed people and wounded 17. This incident was labeled as Bloody Sunday, though it was one of at least four incidents in Northern Ireland by that name.


For more than 30 years, there was serious strife between Ireland and Northern Ireland, ranging from rock throwing to Molotov cocktails, from rioting to car bombing.


Violence in Belfast was so common that rarely a week went by without reports of such violence, even in American press. The Europa hotel was attacked by bombs 36 times making it the most bombed hotel in the world. Between 1971 and 1980, Belfast was one of the most dangerous cities in the world. More than 1,600 people were killed due to political violence in the city between 1969 and 2001. While largely dissipated, the conflict still exists.


In 1998, the Troubles subsided sharply upon the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and self-governance was returned Northern Ireland with a power-sharing agreement between the four main parties. The Agreement is tenuous at best, but violence is nowhere near what it once was. It created an economic boom and ushered in an economic boom, improving the overall environment of Belfast.


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