The Ulster Declaration: Initiative unites the sceptics on both sides of divide: West Belfast

THE BERLIN Arms and the Sports Tavern are just a half- brick's throw apart, as they say around here. In all other respects there's a world between them. But yesterday, John Major and Albert Reynolds achieved a miracle and united the bars of Protestant Shankill and the Catholic Falls - in disappointment and scepticism of their peace initiative.

One lunchtime drinker summed up the feeling on both sides of west Belfast: this deal was 'not the Christmas present I wanted'. This unity of opinion only went so far. Derek, a 30- year-old mechanic drinking in the Berlin Arms, said the initiative meant 'the IRA's violence has paid off. You can't have peace talks without violence - and now the IRA have won'.

His friend, a 49-year-old window fitter, agreed: 'Sinn Fein means 'We Alone' - that's what they want. There's no room in their Ireland for anyone else.'

On the television screen above them, the Rev Ian Paisley was seeing off an interviewer. 'The only future is an independent Ulster,' the window fitter said, smiling up at the Democratic Unionist leader. 'We get the hints, we can see the British don't want us . . . People will see this as us being sold down the river. And they will act.'

Derek says he doesn't have a problem with Catholics - he's the only Protestant member of his blues band, and they play 'wherever they'll pay]'. But he sees no hope. 'I'd love peace - but it's not acceptable at this price . . . there are so many wounds, the feelings are too deep. It'll be Bosnia.'

At another table sit Frances, 53, and Blanche, 66, both born and bred in the Shankill. Frances's nephew, an officer in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, was killed by the IRA two years ago. 'You're going to see a civil war here. There'll be murder,' she said. She feels betrayed. 'We fought to be British. We're more British than they are over there, and we want to stay British.'

Her solution is for 'us all to be the way we were. We lived together before the Troubles'. Blanche, who used to work on the Falls Road as a spinner, repeated the Shankill Road mantra: 'We want peace - but not at any price. Not at this price.'

At the Sports Tavern on the Falls Road, a block from Sinn Fein headquarters, the mood is different. Catholic drinkers, many of them workers at the Royal hospitals, reckon they've seen it all before. 'Nothing new, and nothing'll happen,' one said.

'The only way there will be peace in Northern Ireland is when the Brits get out,' the barman said. 'Do you know what this peace deal means?' asked one woman. 'It means a Catholic will be shot dead tonight.'

Still, there is unanimity that the nationalists have nothing to lose by giving John Major's offer a chance - 'In the end it's like with Yasser Arafat. You have to talk to them. Not that I see any good coming of it.'

Some agreed with the 24-year-old barman that there is no guarantee that a ceasefire will hold. Everyone fears a possible backlash. 'If the Orangemen start shooting people, the IRA won't be able to hold back forever. We've been here before.'

The graffiti on the Falls Road pleads 'Support the Adams-Hume peace initiative]' Last night, some were willing to applaud a real step forward for peace. 'People are sick of it all, they just want peace,' said Mary Hanvey, of the Falls Neighbourhood Development Centre. 'And today I'm more hopeful than I ever was.'

Colleague, Peter McMahon, said: 'I've always been convinced I'd never, ever, see it in my lifetime. But now . . . there's hope.'

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape