Silent crowds gather by faded symbol of peace

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The Independent Online
The wooden dove, held aloft on a stick above the word "Peace", had clearly seen better days. Its faded white feathers had been touched- up in places and the stick was bound round with old insulation tape. But it was impossible to ignore.

It seemed tired, a little jaded as if, like the 2,000-strong crowd outside Belfast's City Hall yesterday, it had seen one peace rally too many.

Despite the high turn-out, and the uplifting singing of local children, yesterday's "Count The Cost" peace vigil, held under heavy grey skies, had a subdued air as news filtered through of the deaths of Darren Murray, 11, hit by a van during sectarian exchanges in Portadown, and Warrant Officer James Bradwell, a victim of the Lisburn bombings.

Nuala Noblett, chairwoman of Women Together, which had organised the rally, said that the attack had been a "cruel, calculating act aimed at pushing us to the brink of civil unrest. We cannot lose hope although we have been truly tested".

During the half-hour vigil, the mixed crowd, which had congregated slowly from the city centre's shops and businesses, stood silently in the temporarily closed roads around the square while they heard the testimonies of three victims of sectarian violence.

Mark Kelly had lost both his legs at 18, after a "no-warning" bomb was placed under his chair in a pub. Yvonne Cromie's son was 17 when he was shot dead in a sectarian "tit-for-tat' murder.

But it was a tearful Maria McShane who left the most lasting impression. Eighteen years ago, pregnant, she lost an eye after a car bomb. Her son survived only to die 18 months ago, aged 17, shot dead by the Ulster Volunteer Force.

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