Voices for peace: Ulster's war-weary people plead for end to the killing

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The Independent Online
A new "Book of Peace" was opened in Belfast City Hall yesterday.

David McKittrick, Ireland correspondent, spoke to people whose only desire is for peace to return to Ulster

The people who were trudging into Belfast City Hall looked sombre and drawn in the wintry light. It was not just the January cold but the effects of the demoralising violence.

Most of them seemed to come not out of hope so much as from sympathy for the bereaved, and to register their distress and opposition to the ten recent killings in and around the city.

The city's nationalist lord mayor, Alban Maginness, and his Unionist deputy, Jim Rodgers, were the first to write their names to the book.

They were followed by a woman who wrote simply: "Please stop the killing," and the inscription of a Co Armagh couple: "For our children's sake let there be peace."

A man from Hillsborough, Co Down wrote: "No piece of land is worth such pain." Another who signed wrote: "Those who committed most of the recent murders claimed to do so on my behalf. I repudiate this as strongly as possible."

Another posed the question: "Why should thugs decide my life for me or my family?"

Later a woman told The Independent: "I signed the book because I came through 27 years of this. My grandchildren are four and five and I don't want them growing up with this. I am coming through a bereavement myself for a natural death, but what must these people feel whose loved ones have been shot down in the street like a dog?"

A Co Antrim man in his 30s added: "It's just that I feel angry. I'm a Protestant and a Unionist and the majority of the recent killings have allegedly been done in my name.

"I'm supposedly meant to sleep easier in my bed because these people have been murdered. They were supposed to represent some sort of a threat to me, which is absolute nonsense. I wish to make it clear that I want nothing to do with this."

Another man added: "I signed because of my revulsion at the killings. There's a tremendous groundswell for peace. I have many friends, both Protestant and Catholic, and all of them feel we've had enough, that 28 years is enough, that we've enough people dead.

"There's no political reason for this, it's just blind hatred and it's leading everybody nowhere."

And an old lady, who has lived through not just this bout of troubles but others in Belfast's sad and recurrently violent history, shook her head and said: "It's so sad. It's the one God who judges us all, isn't it?

"He doesn't ask you what side you're on, if you're a Protestant or a Catholic. God help those poor people, their families, they must be destroyed."