Belfast is a peculiarly religious community. This may be said of the whole of the North of Ireland. About one-half of the people are Protestants and the other half Catholics. Each party does all it can to make its own doctrines popular and draw the affections of the irreligious toward them. One hears constantly of the most touching instances of this zeal. A week ago a vast concourse of Catholics assembled at Armagh to dedicate a new Cathedral; and when they started home again the roadways were lined with groups of meek and lowly Protestants who stoned them till all the region round about was marked with blood. I thought that only Catholics argued in that way, but it seems to be a mistake.
Every man in the community is a missionary and carries a brick to admonish the erring with. The law has tried to break this up, but not with perfect success. It has decreed that irritating “party cries” shall not be indulged in, and that persons uttering them shall be fined forty shillings and costs. And so, in the police court reports every day, one sees these fines recorded. Last week a girl of twelve years old was fined the usual forty shillings and costs for proclaiming in the public streets that she was “a Protestant.” The usual cry is, “To hell with the Pope!” or “To hell with the Protestants!” according to the utterer’s system of salvation.
One of Belfast’s local jokes was very good. It referred to the uniform and inevitable fine of forty shillings and costs for uttering a party cry–and it is no economical fine for a poor man, either, by the way. They say that a policeman found a drunken man lying on the ground, up a dark alley, entertaining himself with shouting, “To hell with!” “To hell with!” The officer smelt a fine–informers get half.
“What’s that you say?”
“To hell with!”
“To hell with who? To hell with what?”
“Ah, bedad, ye can finish it yourself–it’s too expansive for me!”
I think the seditious disposition, restrained by the economical instinct, is finely put in that.