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Letter's of the year: Peace in Ulster

Sir: I was raised in Belfast in the 1950s and 60s, perhaps the only time in living memory when working-class Catholics and Protestants could live there side by side in peace. My parents avoided those two denominational labels so scrupulously that, when I was first asked which foot I kicked with, I did not know. My friendships spanned what is now described as the community divide.

Since then, I have walked in the blood of murdered Catholics, still clutching their betting slips while, out on the street, a community stood frozen in silent horror. I have seen the grief in the eyes of young paramedics describing how they cradled the bodies of dead Protestant children from the debris of an IRA bomb.

I have lost colleagues and friends. I have walked behind the coffin of one colleague's 87-year-old uncle, shot as he watched the World Cup on television in his local pub. I have written commendations for an ambulance crew who saved the life of a baby girl who was in her uncle's arms when the gunmen came to shoot him and decided that they couldn't let a little thing like her stop them.

Does it really have to be like that again before our leaders are touched with the vision of statesmanship? I hope not (I gave up praying a long time ago), I want to implore them to call a halt to the political point- scoring and get down instead to solving problems in a civilised way. Only in that way can they honour the sacrifice of the dead and the pain of the bereaved.


Dorking, Surrey

15 September