Loyalists distrust 'deals behind doors'

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The Independent Online
BEHIND the green iron grills which fortify the Berlin Arms pub on the Shankill Road a few early regulars were waiting last night for the latest on the 'betrayal' on the evening news.

A few months ago the pub was the victim of a bomb attack. A local pensioner carried the device from the premises and saved the building and its occupants.

'We have a lot of pensioners who come in here who fought for Britain in the Second World War. They feel that it was all for nothing now,' said Billy the barman, 29, who is not entirely happy talking to reporters.

'When you are one of a handful of pubs yet to be driven out by the other side's bombers, you don't exactly welcome strangers.

'The general feeling is that we don't trust the IRA and we feel betrayed by the British.

'We all want peace but not on their terms, that's what's happening now, it's all deals behind closed doors. It's just a step towards a united Ireland.'

A loyalist backlash he believes is inevitable. He seemed unconcerned. 'The loyalist paramilitaries will start to hit out against the Irish in the way the IRA targetted the British, it's just a turning of the tables.'

Just down the road at the boarded- up gap that was Frizzell's fish shop before last year's Shankill bomb, another Billy, 60, was less bleak, but still sceptical about the imminent ceasefire.

'You just get on with life here. You try to earn a living, bring your family up and you hope for better for your grandchildren.

'But you don't just start trusting people who plant bombs in a main shopping street on a Saturday afternoon when the place is full of women and children.'

He crossed the road just before the Shankill bomb exploded claiming nine lives. Like everyone in the area he knows the victims and relatives of those who died.

Jimmy Rankin, 25, a mill worker, had just spoken to a couple of friends minutes before the IRA atrocity. The couple and their child died in the explosion. He looks at the lone bouquet of roses on the hoarding wall that now covers the gap where the fish shop was.

'You can never forgive or forget this sort of thing. The ceasefire is a lot of shit, it will never happen. We will have another 25 years of this because the hatred is so deep. A Taig will never be able to come and use the post office on the Shankill Road.' The Ulster Freedom Fighters would simply never allow it. What would make the UFF lay down their arms? Jimmy shrugs. 'They will do what's necessary to keep Ulster British.'

Two elderly ladies gossiping opposite Frizzell's were more optimistic. 'We just want peace,' said one. 'We are fed up worrying where our children are at night. It used to be our sons and now it's our grandsons.'

Her friend said that the crucial point was that people did not want another 25 years of violence. She pointed to the half- mile of metal shutters which covers the shops on both sides of the Shankill. 'It wasn't always like this you know. We used to be able to walk around, it used to be safe.'