Do we really have the happiest places in the UK or are we just too easily pleased?

Lies, damn lies and subeditors.. Same as last year. ?  Does Northern Ireland really boast the happiest places in the UK? So the past is  over and done with, right?  Maybe we’d better look a bit deeper…

Jenny McCartney the rather fierce daughter of the fierce Bob QC, ex MP, in her Telegraph  column gives away the secret of life if you’ve been reared in the Gold Coast. Northern Ireland is pleasantly empty if you’re not set among the huddled masses and can drive quickly past the riot debris and protest camps on your way to the Turner Prize.

In fact, rural Northern Ireland in general performed stupendously well on the   happiness index. Seven of the 11 “happiest” places hail from there: Moyle, Lisburn, Limavady, Banbridge, Carrickfergus and Down, all place-names that echoed around my childhood (our family home was on the bit of County Down that abuts Belfast Lough). Yet there is not an international stampede to live in this blessed place, while in the south-east of England the population is packed in like pilchards in a series of increasingly small and expensive tins (which may, of course, have something to do with why folk in Northern Ireland, luxuriating in green space, appear more content).

Despite all that we’re still not absolutely guaranteed a place in the recognition stakes. There are definitional issues if you’re  the media for somewhere else and need to muscle  in on the happiest quotients. What’s a “place” anyway? What’s a town? How does Enniskillen compare with lovely Sheffield? What come to think of it, are “Britain” and “the UK”? (Oh please don’t tell me, I didn’t mean it).

What’s this about Orkney in the Mirror?  Have they left us out of the UK again?  Snooty old Channel 4 News  unilaterally expel us and Scotland too, the closet republicans;  and even manage to drag Stephen Lawrence into it .  At last!  We ‘ve found a familiar grievance to make us even happier. How dare you ignore us; we may be small but… the Titanic, the Somme, Ruby Murray, Rory McIlroy, etc etc.     

But it’s Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times (£) who  effortlessly wins the Slugger prize for cynicism

Six of the 10 “happiest” places in the United Kingdom are situated in Northern Ireland. This “news” has shocked some mainland commentators, but it doesn’t surprise me. Marching up and down wearing bowler hats and occasional knee-capping are enjoyable activities that help to foster a sense of community, and hence contentment.

So, too, does mutual loathing based on ill-conceived religious and political certitudes. There is nothing quite so life-affirming as knowing you are utterly right and those people over there are utterly wrong… It is doubt that fosters unhappiness.

Ring a bell with anyone?

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  • Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times is scathing . Under the headline ‘Be a bigot, you’ll never be happier’ he cites orange marching and hatred for the other lot.

  • Charles_Gould

    Shows how out of touch people in GB are with how pleasant live is typically in NI. There is a real sense of community and neighbourliness in NI that a lot of places in GB have lost.

    I remember my car in the ice sliding over the edge of the road, and within a short time a passing car stopped, 3 lads got out and helped push my car back.

    It’s that sort of kindness and public spiritedness that makes NI such a fantastic society; one where people look out for each other and have time for each other.

  • MrPMartin

    Happiness is warm gun as someone once said/sang

    Yes, happiness. In the heart of the beholder. Those with low expectation achieve their limited ambitions ergo easier to make happy.

    Then again, happiness , like freedom, should not be at the expense of ones neighbour

  • Charles_Gould

    Happiness literature shows that happy people are those who have strong family and social networks; again this is why NI scores well as the society in England is more atomized than in NI.

  • Red Lion

    Charles “Happiness Literature”!! I must get hold of some of that!

  • Charles_Gould

    There is a field of study that projects measures of happiness on explanatory variables and tries to establish the causes of happiness.

  • Republic of Connaught


    “It’s that sort of kindness and public spiritedness that makes NI such a fantastic society; one where people look out for each other and have time for each other.”

    Charles, that’s a characteristic of Irish society throughout the 32 counties. The notion of the parish and community spirit is an intrinsic part of Irish life for centuries. It’s at its strongest in rural Ireland and is why culchies often notice the difference in Dublin or Belfast where random strangers are less inclined to nod “hello” walking by even if you’re the only two people along the path.

    Britain has a lot more people living in concentrated urban areas and struggles to find the same personal relations. Though Britain is generally much more multicultural so it’s probably harder anyway to forge community spirit.

    Though how anyone can be “happy” in any part of Ireland given the awful weather baffles me. Contentment is as much as any sane Irishman should seek on this wind swept isle.

  • Two things:
    1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    2. People generally remember the good things in life and try to forget the bad things.
    Thus I bet that a majority of older people will say that the place where they grew up was their happiest place to be.
    True for me anyway, and, by other people’s measures, that particular place is a “dump”.

  • I noticed that Belfast, the Seattle of the UK, wasn’t among those top six places. This time of year where I live in the American North the skies are gray from mid-October to mid-December and so I tend to get rather depressed. I think if I lived in Greater Belfast I would be depressed for even longer because of the climate.

  • Gopher

    Where else in the world can you be a member of an 18 hole golf club in beautiful surroundings for under a grand? For sailing a couple of hundred quid gets you a club on Strangford, Carlingford or Belfast Lough. There are more leisure centres probably for head of population than anyway else no doubt and If you just want to sit on your arse Belfast, remains one of the best drinking towns in the world. Now if we could just get rid of a few people with political attention deficit disoder, scrap passenger duty, lengthen a runway and get rid of speed bumps this place would be heaven on earth

  • Charles_Gould

    It is a great place to live. Not much congestion on the roads and a nice house cheap to buy.

  • Neil

    Belfast’s one of the most congested cities in the UK. Leave the speed bumps and get rid of the bus lanes.

  • cynic2

    It appears that we are too easily pleased

    Van Morrison is giving a free concert to celebrate his award of the freedom of the city. Great …except that those greedy porkers on the Council have awarded themselves, top officials and the hangers on up to 20% of all the tickets. 500 for the Council and 2000 for all the rest of the City

    Yep that’s right – just 4 per Councillor , then there are all those senior officials, party members. MLAs etc to be slipped a few tickets as well – all as Guests of the Council of course.

    There seem to be no measures in place to stop these being sold on the black market so yet again we see where our civil leaders sensibilities lie – snouts buried firmly in the trough. Its not just that they don’t see the issue – they actually defend it as ‘good for Belfast’

    Still, it is us that elects them and it will be interesting to see how many of the ‘Council’ allocation makes its way onto the black market, Meanwhile I suppose we can just stand outside City Hall and doff our caps at our betters

  • willieric

    4 tickets for van is nothing much, apparently the Stormont shows garnered dozens of free tickets for the mla’s’ families.
    Of course, Ireland is a wonderful place to live…..few queues, predictable therefore avoidable traffic congestion and speed bumps, well publicised religious and social demarcation boundaries, cheap multiple food outlets, widespread access to golf etc.,.superb outdoor and indoor sports arenas, free transport and NHS for seniors, average temperatures , and more good Samaritans per head of the populations than any where else I’ve encountered.
    The down side comes with the naked bigotry and sectarianism, which is localised and well documented. Knowing how to avoid aggression comes with the territory, and such knowledge makes life simpler. And the simple life is a contented life. The people of Northern Ireland especially, have become calloused over the past 40 years, by constant criticism and bad publicity. They know their faults, and are working towards their resolution.

  • jagmaster

    Nothing like a famine and mass emigration to clear a country out to give nice uncluttered views and acres and acres of green spaces.

  • Son of Strongbow

    At least when I advise representatives of the Most Oppressed People, Ever! to go to their happy place I’ll now be able to give directions.

    Don’t you wish it could be like this all the time?

  • People are happy and it’s the “fault” of the English. Good grief, that’s shacking.

  • Rory Carr

    “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

    – Old Abe Lincoln.

  • Happiness is relative. What makes one person happy, might be totally irrelevant for someone else. We cannot generalize and say that an entire nation is happy or not. Even though it sounds absurd, happiness resides in us, not in the things or situations around us.

    Ally Sedon – Marketing Specialist for 247 Stansted Airport Transfer
    “Happiness is an inside job”