The Loyalist Ceasefire: Old scores remain to be settled on the front line

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The Independent Online
FOUR weeks ago he stood by a burnt-out van in the aftermath of Protestant riots and swore that the Loyalist paramilitaries who protected his community would never surrender.

Yesterday outside his house in the heart of Protestant west Belfast he shrugged his shoulders and said: 'It's finished, it was all over the day they went into prison to talk to the Protestant paramilitaries.'

But while he said it was the beginning of the end for the political war, he claimed his community believed there would soon be a new kind of violence.

''First the old scores will have to be settled. There are people living around here who shouldn't be able to sleep for the things they have done to others. But the scores will be settled privately, not in the name of a paramilitary group. Then the gangsters will crawl out. Lots of guys around here have made money from extortion and racketeering. They are not going to be happy with the dole or a low-paid job. You have to remember that all the weapons are still out there.'

Even the two old ladies on the Shankill Road, jubilant at the parmilitaries' ceasefire, echoed the same warning. 'We're just delighted,' Margaret, 76, said. 'I never thought I would see it in my lifetime, let's hope the barriers are soon down and that it's like when I was a girl and you could walk on the Falls Road on a Saturday night without fear.' But her friend Jean, 78, muttered about the bad guys. Together they reeled off a list of local men. 'Everyone knows they have got their money from terrorism,' Jean whispered. 'You wonder what they will turn to.'

Across the road in the Berlin Arms, Geordie, 29, the barman, is nervously optimistic. A few months ago, the pub was attacked by terrorists but it has deferred plans to increase security. 'I just hope it holds,' Geordie said. 'We hope we are going to have a Christmas where we won't have to worry about a bomber coming through that door.'

A few minutes drive away in the neighbouring Catholic Ardoyne, James Murray's bookies is busy with punters. Two years ago, loyalist terrorists attacked the premises, killing three customers.

Behind the barbed wire and iron security cage which protects the bookies, Harry, 42, said one of the saddest things was that it scared off the few Protestant customers. 'You never get over it. They know who did it, but of course they can't prove it. Still, the gunman has yet to meet his maker. But the announcement today makes you feel safer. I am optmistic and we've all had enough.

'Everyone has suffered. My brother was killed by loyalist paramilitaries, but really they killed more than him. My mother died of a broken heart and my sister-in-law drank herself to death.'

But in the Catholic Falls on the other side of the Shankill the ceasefire has terrified families. Lorraine's home backs on to the brick and metal peace wall which divides Protestants and Catholics. She said she would support the dismantling of the wall only if they built a bigger one. The house is still regularly petrol-bombed by Protestants from the other side.

'I would never want the wall to come down yet,' her friend Elizabeth Davey, 27, said. 'This is only one small step. There's a long way to go. You can't wipe out 25 years just like that.'