October 14, 1994
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) -- Suspicion runs deep in the shabby streets of Belfast's Lower Ormeau district, where Catholics use thick metal "drop bars" to keep marauding gunmen from breaking down their doors.
So in this and other Catholic neighborhoods, relief over the cease-fire announcement by Protestant paramilitaries Thursday was tempered with mistrust.
"I think they're just doing it as a ploy, just a cover," one woman, who refused to be identified, said. "My drop bars will be on for a couple of weeks."
A young man hanging out on a street corner, Bernard O'Hara, believed the Protestant cease-fire will last a few months at most.
"They're too bigoted," O'Hara said. "I wouldn't trust them."
Patricia Breen was one of the few voices of optimism.
"We are delighted by it," she said on her way out of a bakery. "We're leaving our doors open, no more drop bars. Parties everywhere."
Most people here will wait and see whether the peace can really be true, and lasting -- that both extremes in the conflict have stopped shooting and bombing for the first time in 25 years.
Belfast is, after all, criss-crossed with tall walls, euphemistically called "peace lines," which the government erected to separate some Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods.
And it echoes with the mourning of people who have lost friends and relatives in the quarter-century of strife.
"Peace will not come overnight," said Joyce McCartan, who has seen 13 relatives slain. "It'll take years to heal the wounds on both sides, maybe 20 years to build up that trust."
In 1987, Protestant gunmen burst into her home and fatally shot her youngest child, 17-year-old Gary.
"I'll never get over my child's death. It broke my heart," she said.
She hid her daughter, Rosario, for months after the girl witnessed the gunmen storming into the hallway and later received threats.
Despite Rosario's testimony, no one was convicted in Gary's death. Three men Mrs. McCartan holds responsible were later imprisoned for other crimes.
Mrs. McCartan said the best she can hope for is peace for future generations.
She recalled that a few months before Gary was killed, he told her that his girfriend was pregnant.
"I have a beautiful, wee granddaughter -- part of him -- which helps to heal a bit."
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