We don't believe it's the genuine article, says the shopper on the Shankill Road

Click to follow
Two different traditions, two different reactions. As news of the IRA cease-fire broke yesterday morning, cautious optimism among Catholics contrasted sharply with the world weary response of many Protestants.

Care worker Sandra Luney, 35, was out shopping in the deeply Loyalist Shankill Road. All around were the symbols of Unionism, the red, white and blue bunting across the street, Union flags fluttering in the sunshine from many shops and homes and large murals proclaiming defence of the Union on any spare wall. "I want to believe in this cease-fire," she said. "I want to believe it's true. But I have to say I'm very sceptical."

Her mind is on the earlier cease-fire, which began in Agust 1994 and ended with the Docklands bomb in February last year. "I felt genuine hope then; there was optimism and hope. Now I'm more cynical about what looks like a tactical decision.I hope it is true, for everyone's sake. Otherwise what a beautiful country going to waste."

Her theme is echoed by Angela Cunningham, also 35, who recalls her emotions during the last short-lived peace. "The Troubles began when I was about seven and I have never really known peace. When the cease-fire came, I thought 'this is it, this is the future'. When it ended, I was gutted, it was a fiasco. I'm sure now that this one is just a tactic by the IRA for Sinn Fein to get into the talks. What happens when they don't get their own way? Are they going to shoot someone else? We want peace, but we want the genuine article."

Many Protestants are angry over what they see as endless British government concessions to the nationalists. Roofer James Osborne, 40, uses a phrase commonly heard in Unionist circles. "We want peace, but not at any price. The British Government must have given the IRA something. We are getting nothing. We have lost everything."

Further down the street scrap yard worker John Brown, 21, says: "The cease-fire may help in the short term. Like last time it will encourage people to go places they are normally too scared to go. But bigotry on both sides will always be there."

A few hundred yards away is another world. As she walks through the Falls Road, the centre of Sinn Fein support in the city, 16-year-old Louise McAvoy thinks the news is "brilliant". She says: "My parents will let me stay out later. I think things will feel more relaxed on the streets. There will be no more killings."

Sheila, 55, on her way to a hair appointment was overjoyed. "It's magic," she said. For her, the expected reduction in tension and sectarian warring means she will be able to visit her sister and old work friends in a Loyalist stronghold in South Belfast, as she did in the last cease- fire. It is an area she normally avoids. "During a cease-fire, there's less fear, you're not always looking over your shoulder all the time. It's such a lovely feeling, almost impossible to describe. I think the majority of ordinary people on both sides will welcome it."

Pat, 25, hopes the news will end the conflict near her home close to the peace line on the Springfield Road, which traverses both Catholic and Protestant areas. "I live right across from it and in the last few weeks, everything that could happen has happened - petrol bombs, people cutting down lamp-posts and so on. I just hope this is the beginning of peace."

But a pensioner who asked for her name to be withheld said: "In the past I have felt optimistic. Everyone felt quite good in 1994 and as the cease-fire went on, but I'm much more cautious this time. I honestly believe that there are fanatics on both sides who do not want all this to end."

Patrick, 36, believes the cease-fire has come too soon after the RUC operation to remove Catholic protesters off Garvaghy Road in Portadown to let through an Orange parade on 6 July. "What happened at Drumcree was enough for anyone. How many Catholics have been killed over the past years?"

His views encapsulate one of the crucial blocks to progress in creating trust in any peace talks; while Protestants speak angrily of British concessions to the Nationalists, Patrick blames Downing Street "intransigence" for the failure of the last cease-fire to bear permanent fruit. "Of course, life is better under a cease-fire. I just think it shouldn't have happened so quickly."

After the last cease-fire the number of visitors taking holidays in Northern Ireland rose from 1.24 million in 1994 to 1.5 million the following year before dipping again after the Docklands bomb. The Northern Ireland Tourist Office believes that a lasting peace could bring in an extra pounds 500m a year and create up to 20,000 new jobs. A spokeswoman said: "If there is a lasting peace, there is no reason why we could not match the level of tourism which exists in Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales."

A moving welcome of the IRA cease-fire came from Laurence Martin, whose Catholic daughter Bernadette was shot and killed in the home of her Protestant boyfriend last week. After attending her funeral in Craigavon on Friday he said: "If my daughter's death has brought this around then I'm elated. This is the news I wanted. It would be good to associate the date of my daughter's burial with a cease-fire."

A 36-year-old man has been charged with her murder.