Ben Lowry: I do love Bangor, but it is hard to think of it as a city

Bangor is a town that I know well, having grown up on its outskirts.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 21st May 2022, 6:35 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 7:58 am
Bangor in Co Down has an attractive seaside setting and an ancient history, but feels like a town, as it has until now been
Bangor in Co Down has an attractive seaside setting and an ancient history, but feels like a town, as it has until now been

If any place in Northern Ireland is to get formal recognition in a competition, then I am pleased to see the honours go to Bangor.

The Co Down coastal town will now be a city, as part of the Queen’s jubilee creation of new cities, and so I join those who congratulate it.

But I do wonder about the wisdom of making so many Northern Ireland towns into cities. In a mere 20 years we have had three: Lisburn, Newry and Bangor.

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All three are good places to live. Newry, which once had some of the worst unemployment in the UK, is now economically booming.

But I do not think any of these conurbations are cities.

Or, if they are cities, then what is the meaning of the term city? In America the title of city is more liberally applied than in Britain and Ireland, and is often given to what we would consider to be towns, even sometimes smallish ones. And so I feel the term city is devalued.

Most of us have a clear concept of a city. On this island, only Dublin is near to being a major city by international scales, which means a population of a million plus.

The only other place that is obviously a city is Belfast,albeit small by global standards. Cork and Londonderry have the feel of small cities.

Much as I love Bangor, including its setting and ancient history, I will struggle to think of it as a city.

Yet you can be sure that in a decade or two there will be a push for a further NI city, perhaps a town that is considered nationalist to compensate for Bangor’s unionist past.

And one day NI could end up with more cities than towns.

Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter editor. Other columns by him below