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Irish Residents Here Troubled By Violence in Northern Ireland

July 16, 1996

BOSTON (AP) _ During her visit to Northern Ireland a few months back, Lena Deevy could feel the good will, optimism and relief in the air as peace talks approached.

On her return trip to the British province two weeks ago, Deevy saw people stockpiling wood for the bonfires that have burned in the worst weeks of rioting in a generation.

With the peace talks going nowhere, the winds over Belfast had shifted.

``People were nervous,″ said Deevy, who moved here from Dublin seven years ago. Their fears were realized.

Now, with each morning paper reporting more violence, Deevy, director of Boston’s Irish Immigration Center, and other Irish here hope the chance for peace has not been lost.

``The forces of good at the moment are stronger,″ Deevy said Monday. ``There are so many people that have put so much energy into the peace process.″

Tremors from the resurgence of fighting in Northern Ireland are felt strongly in Boston, whose Irish community numbers more than 30,000 and where some 2,000 young Irish nationals come to work each summer.

``It’s frightening, really. It looks like it could just blow up,″ said Sarah Connolly as she served frozen yogurt at Quincy Market. Connolly, in the country on a work visa, will return to Galway, Ireland, in September.

``You wonder, will there be bloodshed?″ she said.

Mary, who moved from the Northern Ireland city of Derry eight years ago, said violence, like Sunday’s hotel bomb near Enniskillen, has dashed the hopes of those who were so optimistic after paramilitary groups declared a cease-fire in August 1994.

``It’s absolutely sickening. I just feel profoundly sad,″ she said. Fearing her family in Derry would suffer, Mary spoke on the condition that her last name not be used.

``People feel like it’s almost 1969 again,″ when Northern Ireland’s troubles began, she said.

Since 1969, more than 3,200 have died in the violence between pro-British protestants and Catholic nationalists, who want to unite Northern Ireland with Ireland.

But ``I don’t believe it’s all over,″ she said, sharing the optimism of many. ``Too many people want that peace.″

All who were interviewed condemned the Protestant march through a Catholic enclave in Portadown to mark a historic 17th-century victory over Catholics. Police first blocked the march but relented after four days of rioting.

``It was like letting the (Ku Klux Klan) march through Harlem,″ said Dermot Doyne, who is Irish but grew up in London and settled in Boston 1 1/2 years ago.

Being in the United States only increases the despair, said Mary Moylan, production manager of the Cambridge Celtic Arts Society. ``Everyone is really disappointed and feel like they can’t do anything because they’re so far away.

``There was such a new feel of hope and now it’s all gone,″ Moylan said.