Signs of Hope in Catholic-Protestant Conflict in Northern Ireland

September 16, 2004

Source: The New York Times

On September 16, 2004 The New York Times reported, "[D]espite the daily signs of sectarian hatred, fear and crime in Northern Ireland, the winds of change are blowing here. It has been 10 years since the outlawed Irish Republican Army declared a cease-fire in its war to end British rule in the six counties of Northern Ireland - a war that has left this province deeply scarred. Today, some parts of Northern Ireland are in an increasingly visible recovery. Most prominently, a new Belfast is rising over the rubble of the old battleground. A vibrant city of commerce and night life, and a soaring architecture of glass and steel now stand along the Lagan River... People increasingly define themselves by their interests, not their religion, [Glenn Patterson, a Belfast-based novelist, said]... Still, talk of renaissance goes only so far here. In North Belfast, where the Catholic parish of Holy Cross stands on the sectarian divide, 30-foot high 'peace' walls slash across the landscape to keep the communities from attacking each other. The Rev. Aidan Troy, the Catholic priest sent here by his order in Rome to struggle for peace, is not so sure that the trend lines are positive. 'North Belfast is becoming absolutely sealed into orange and green zones,' he said, referring to the 'tribal' colors of Protestants and Catholics. Paramilitary gangs rule in these neighborhoods. Residents on both sides mistrust the police. Paramilitary intimidation, especially against teenagers, has led to an alarming rise in young suicides."