Peace Elusive in Northern Ireland, a Year After IRA Cease-Fire
NEWRY, Northern Ireland (AP) _ The killings have ended but Northern Ireland is not yet at peace, a year after the Irish Republican Army put down its guns.
When Catholic high school student Therese Craven went with her traveling drama group to perform at a Protestant school recently, pupils hurled stones at her.
``I am quite cynical now. There are people who are just stirring trouble,″ said Therese, 17, a native of this hilly border town 40 miles southwest of Belfast. ``It is going to take ages to change anything here.″
Elizabeth Carroll remembers her 5-year-old, freckle-faced daughter running back from the playground one day in July, screaming that she had seen ``men with guns.″
``It was soon after they released a (British) soldier from jail and the men _ I don’t know who they were _ hijacked a car,″ said Mrs. Carroll.
Her neighborhood’s political allegiances are proclaimed by pro-IRA graffiti and fluttering orange, white and green flags Irish flags.
``I just want to see all the violence ended,″ Mrs. Carroll said, wearily running a hand through her hair.
On Friday, Northern Ireland marks the first anniversary of the IRA cease-fire. Subsequently, pro-British ``loyalist″ gunmen stopped shooting Catholics last Oct. 13, bringing a halt to a quarter-century of violence that killed more than 3,200 people.
Tension has eased for Northern Ireland’s 1.5 million people. Police have taken off their flak jackets, and sometimes patrol without firearms. The armed forces, reduced by 1,500 to 17,000 since the cease-fire, have reduced patrols by 75 percent _ and eliminated them entirely in Belfast and Londonderry.
Roads across the border into the Irish Republic are all open _ one vehicle checkpoint has closed and two have been removed altogether _ and two bases used for border patrols have shut. A large army barracks in west Belfast has been torn down.
``What was unthinkable only two years ago is now a reality,″ the leader of Ireland’s Catholics, Cardinal Cahal Daly, wrote in a local newspaper.
But peace talks are mired in disagreement, and sectarian nastiness has simmered through the summer. Old hatreds and suspicions slow the search for a settlement everyone can live with.
Deep differences are often crudely expressed.
Two weeks ago, Protestants in north Belfast tore down a plywood statue of a peace dove just four days after it was erected.
Since July 9, police say arsonists have attacked 27 halls belonging to the Orange Order, the fraternal organization whose summer marches assert the old Protestant supremacy. Twenty-nine churches, both Catholic and Protestant, have been set on fire, daubed with sectarian graffiti or vandalized in other ways.
In early July, Catholics rioted over the release of Pvt. Lee Clegg, a British soldier convicted of killing a Catholic woman. There were scuffles in July and August as Catholics tried to block the Orange marches.
``I think peace is only a surface thing,″ said Sheelagh Kinkade, 35, a Protestant who cares for the elderly in Enniskillen, where an IRA bomb at war memorial killed 11 people in November 1987.
Since the cease-fire, police have defused two bombs in Newry and one in Enniskillen. All contained Semtex, the IRA’s favored explosive, but the IRA did not claim responsibility.
Cradling her infant daughter in a Catholic part in Newry, Melanie McKeown says there can be no true cease-fire while both sides continue to dish out ``punishment″ beatings to people on their own sides.
``People are still living in fear,″ said McKeown, 24.
They include her baby’s father, David Madigan, on the run since 1991 after the IRA accused him of intimidating neighbors. Madigan, 22, has found a job, but must move frequently and cannot live with his family.