Peace campaigners don ribbons for IRA victims: Alan Murdoch reports from yesterday's rally in Dublin Peace campaigners don

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The Independent Online
TODDLERS wore white ribbons in their hair, elderly women neat white sashes on the lapels of tweed coats; teenagers sported white headbands with 'Peace' printed across their foreheads; white fabric was even draped from trees in the centre of O'Connell Street.

Roughly half of the 20,000 people who attended yesterday's Dublin rally against paramilitary violence displayed their solidarity with the child victims of the IRA's Warrington bombs with white ribbon, symbol of the Irish Republic's embryonic peace movement.

Others chose placards in the shape of white doves, proclaiming 'Stop the Slaughter - Save the Children', 'Kilkenny Schools for Peace' and 'Cooley says stop the killing'.

There were angry exchanges with Republicans who complained that the new movement was one sided and ignored those killed by security forces.

About 20 held placards carrying the names of youngsters killed by the British Army. A handful held their posters in the faces of the platform speakers. Gardai arrested four people for disorderly behaviour.

The tension eased when Susan McHugh, who started the Dublin peace rallies, told the crowd: 'I want all the victims' families to know that their grief is just as real as that of Mr and Mrs Ball (parents of the Warrington bomb victim Johnathan Ball) and no less worthy of our sympathy.' She then read out the names of all those who had died since the Warrington bombs, including those of the six killed by the Ulster Defence Association.

She pointed out that 121 children had died in the Troubles in 23 years, 'the youngest of whom was six weeks old. I am the voice of a child today, saying please, please, please, make it stop'.

A minute's silence will be observed before Wednesday's World Cup football match in Dublin between the Republic and Northern Ireland. A peace rally is being organised for next Sunday in Hyde Park, London.

It rained heavily but everyone went home in warm spirits when the speeches gave way to a surprise concert by the Dubliners, whose gravelly-voiced singer Ronnie Drew was joined by the fragile melodic tones of Sinead O'Connor. Together they performed the gospel anthem 'May the Circle be Unbroken' and a song composed for the occasion which Ms O'Connor sang 'as a prayer for all humanity'.

The audience, including some hard-bitten trade union leaders, spontaneously joined hands and swayed in time to the music.