`The Real Ireland' Seeks End to Terror Public Outrage at Bombings Brings New Momentum to Peace Movements - a Letter from Belfast

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ON March 25 four Roman Catholic workmen in the seaside town of Castlerock were killed in a single attack by the outlawed Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a paramilitary group that favors union with Britain, and two other Catholics were killed elsewhere. Since 1969, similar attacks in Northern Ireland, or Ulster, have killed a total of 3,053 people - Protestants, Catholics, security forces, and terrorists. It is hard to come to terms with something faintly reminiscent of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina when it is on your own doorstep.

The awful thing about living in Northern Ireland is that we have seen it all before: the first news of the killings, the ritual condemnation, the grieving relatives, the shocked bystanders, the chilling, even gloating, words of the assassins. After the Castlerock killings, a UFF spokesman said: "It's been a good week so far - and it's only Thursday."

Significantly, however, the current widespread revulsion at more recent killings - the murders of two young boys by an Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb in Warrington, England - feels different. Tiny Jonathan Ball, aged 3, and Tim Parry, a lad of 12, were killed, and others were injured, when an IRA bomb exploded in a litter bin in a crowded shopping center. Their deaths touched a raw nerve in Britain and the Irish Republic, prompting massive publicity in the British and Irish press. About 30,000 people in Dublin signed books of condolences to be sent to the grieving families in Warrington. Irish Deputy Prime Minister Dick Spring sent an eloquent message of sympathy: "The real Ireland is walking in spirit behind the coffins of your sons."

In Dublin, a peace rally gathered March 28 to protest the recent killings, drawing a crowd of at least 15,000. At the rally, clergymen, poets, singers and actors launched a "Peace '93 Initiative," which intends to "channel public anger and revulsion into positive and dignified action for peace."

The question now is whether activism will translate into political progress. …