September 3, 1994
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) -- In two gambling shops in one of Belfast's most embittered communities, they're not giving very good odds for peace.
"I give the IRA cease-fire three months," says Joe Donnelly, a Catholic who disdains all things British, particularly his neighbors.
A short walk away, Billy McAllister, a Protestant committed to Northern Ireland's link with Britain, drags on his cigarette and shakes his head.
"Wouldn't give you odds on peace, son. I'd just be taking your money."
The Irish Republican Army on Thursday began a cease-fire in its 24-year fight to end British rule in Northern Ireland. Peace efforts since then have focused on reining in pro-British Protestant extremists.
But pessimism is palpable along the Ormeau Road, which runs from south-central Belfast to the city's leafy southern suburbs. It is dubbed "the murder mile" because of its history of retaliatory attacks between Protestant "loyalist" and Irish Catholic enclaves.
People in both communities think lasting peace in Northern Ireland isn't possible -- not when Joe Donnelly and Billy McAllister are too suspicious to go into the other sides' betting shops.
The area's many unemployed men congregate at their own sides' bookies to place bets on the same televised races. Both shops are owned by the same firm, Sean Graham.
A few hundred yards from the Protestant-only Donegall Pass betting shop is the Lower Ormeau neighborhood's Catholic shop.
In 1992, five Catholics were gunned down there by two gunmen from the Protestant-based Ulster Defense Association. The IRA took its revenge last July, killing two senior UDA men blamed locally for the attack.
"I wouldn't live next door to a Protestant. I'd sooner burn them out, before they burned me out,"
said Donnelly, 30. Unemployed, he has a wife and 9-year-old son.
Loyalists fired shots through a window of Donnelly's home last summer.
He feels even more vulnerable now that the IRA has lowered its guns in a bid to get its political allies, Sinn Fein, into talks with British officials.
"Right now the IRA's got their cease-fire on, and (Sinn Fein leader) Gerry Adams is trying to work a deal with the Brits, to get them out of Ireland. I support what he's doing 100 percent,"
he said, keeping his eyes on the screen displaying the names of racehorses.
"If the Brits don't play ball, well the IRA will start right up again. It's a dead cert," he said. "But even if the Brits do play ball and get out, there won't be peace, cause the loyalists won't stop killing innocent Catholics."
"Eventually, sooner rather than later, the IRA will have to lift their guns back up and sort them out," he said.
Donnelly bet on a horse called Go For Broke. He lost his pound.
At the Donegall Pass shop, McAllister explained why gunmen from his community killed Catholics from Lower Ormeau -- and would certainly kill more.
"Most of them down there, they vote for Sinn Fein, they don't help the police, they cover up for known IRA men. They're all the same. They can't be trusted,"
said the 46-year-old painter, a father of three girls.
"Nobody likes this war," he said. "But you can't negotiate with people who are fanatics. (British Prime Minister Neville) Chamberlain tried it with Hitler and you know what followed -- World War II. Now John Major's going to try the same with Gerry Adams."
"Protestants have no faith that this cease-fire is anything but an IRA ploy to get concessions. It'll all end in grief, and you can be sure we'll be worse off for it."
McAllister bet on True Blue. He lost his pound, too.
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