Associated Press

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.

A short walk away, Billy McAllister, a Protestant committed to Northern Ireland's link with Britain, drags on his cigarette and shakes his head.

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.

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.

he said, keeping his eyes on the screen displaying the names of racehorses.

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.

said the 46-year-old painter, a father of three girls.

McAllister bet on True Blue. He lost his pound, too.