Changes to Belfast.

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by debbiesmum, Dec 13, 2004.

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  1. Hi, I am Debbie's mum, and I live in Belfast. I am wondering what you guys think of NI now. My husband used to be in the British Army, a long time ago. I just wanted to debate some issues with people, to see what they think. Do you think Adams and co have got too much their own way? Do you think things are fair. Or do you not think about it at all? :lol:

    Newsview: Shifts in Belfast remarkable
    By Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press Writer | December 11, 2004

    BELFAST, Northern Ireland --Belfast used to be a place where you dreaded walking past an abandoned car on a lonely street for fear it might blow up. These days, Belfast is a bustling city of bag-laden shoppers, well-heeled diners and nightclubbers shouting for taxis.

    The backdrop to this decade-long emergence from violence in the contested British province is an on-again, off-again peace process that has just gone through an extraordinary string of shifts and turns, culminating in a shotgun marriage of the province's two most implacable foes.

    The peace prospects that looked good enough to merit the 1998 Nobel Prize seemed to have taken a dive in elections 13 months ago. The voters were disenchanted with the two moderate and long-dominant parties, and the fringes gained.

    The result is that the biggest parties now are Sinn Fein, political arm of the Irish Republican Army that long killed and bombed in hopes of uniting Ireland, and the Democratic Unionists of Ian Paisley, the preacher whose stentorian rhetoric has long defined militant Protestant politics.

    But now that the two parties find themselves in the hot seat of this province of more than 900,000 Protestants and 700,000 Catholics, they are doing the unthinkable -- contemplating a coalition and sounding ready to make historic shifts in policy.

    Paisley has offered conditional pledges to work with Gerry Adams' Sinn Fein party and the government of the neighboring Republic of Ireland, which he used to denounce as a Catholic theocracy. Sinn Fein has offered its own conditional promises to deliver speedy, full IRA disarmament and to recognize the legitimacy of Northern Ireland's police force, which it used to revile as a tool of British oppression.

    That's still a long way from a happy marriage, and both sides resemble a couple at the altar, ready to bolt at the first excuse. Hopes for a power-sharing deal foundered last week over the IRA's refusal of Paisley's bluntly delivered demand for photographic evidence it is disarming.

    But there was no breakdown, and business went on as usual in Northern Ireland.

    Crucially, the vast majority of Northern Ireland citizens no longer see power-sharing as the only way to avoid a return to the violence that has claimed 3,600 lives since 1969.

    "No one expects large-scale violence will resume. The old equation -- that a political vacuum is filled by violence -- no longer seems to apply," said Robin Wilson, director of Democratic Dialogue, a Northern Ireland think tank.

    The radicalized 1960s generation that formed the modern IRA is buying vacation homes and heading for retirement. Two incompetent IRA dissident groups haven't managed a major attack in years and have no credible political base.

    Paul Bew, professor of Irish politics at Queen's University of Belfast, said the IRA, heavily dependent on Irish-American support, is caught in "the 9/11 effect."

    "There's no romanticized support for car-bombers anymore," he said.

    "The IRA campaign is done. It isn't coming back," he said. "Every year that passes since the cease-fire, the more the IRA guys settle into their sofas or just drift away."

    Meanwhile, people have already seen power-sharing flop repeatedly and wonder whether the latest hard-line combination on offer could do any better. An administration led by moderate Protestants and Catholics struggled through a saga of high-wire breakdowns from 1999 to 2002.

    By contrast, during the past two years of low-profile government run by lawmakers imported from England, Scotland and Wales, the province has had record low unemployment and almost no violence.

    "The feeling on the street now is: `No deal -- so what? Why should I give a toss about what these guys get up to?' It's very evident in the past year how people have disengaged big-time," said Wilson.

    The big question is whether Paisley would ever share a platform with Sinn Fein leaders. He won't even talk to them or shake their hands and last week -- with negotiations still in full swing -- he called the IRA "bloodthirsty monsters."

    The most likely answer lies in the two sides' shared interest in winning large British subsidies for their arm's-length partnership. With that money they could build a house with many walls, running their own departments with minimal discussion.

    Walls work for Belfast.

    More than 20 tall "peace lines" of brick and iron have kept the city's warring neighborhoods apart for a generation. Many have gone up during the past decade of peacemaking. Not one has been torn down.


    Shawn Pogatchnik, based in Belfast and Dublin, has covered Northern Ireland for The Associated Press since 1991.

    © Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
  2. So exactly which tabloid do you work for then?
  3. My personal way of 'thinking' about it, is to let the politicians crack on with what they're doing, we'll be around to pick up any pieces.

    Mistakes are made, lessons are learned, but we're always picking up pieces.
  4. Ask your husband what he thinks, you said he used to be in the army.

    If you want to debate this subject with your friends (sub-editors), then form your own opinions don't take anyone elses.
  5. Cutaway

    Cutaway LE Reviewer

    Hi Debbie's mum !

    I love journos.

    PM me & I'll tell all......


  6. :D I am not a journo :D I wish I was I could do with their money :lol:

    No, I am not long back in NI and I was only interested in debate on the subject, because things have changed so much.

    I am also interested to see how it will all pan out.

    Anyway, :D That cheered me up,

    I hope to see you guys around other parts of the board.

    Thanks for getting back.

  7. Hi, Alice!
  8. Hello,

    How are you??

    My name is Maria.

  9. Hi Ulster Fry,

    Who do you mean by 'we'. Do you mean ordinary people, or the army??
  10. Frankly as one who spent more time in West Belfast than I did with my family throughout the 1970s I can't seem to conjure up a warm and fuzzy feeling for this coalition of madmen with their conciliatory schlock. I witnessed too many of my friends killed and maimed as a result of Gerry and Ian's psycopathic hate mongering rhetoric.

    If downtown Belfast is now the vibrant bustling place you say it is with well heeled patrons grazing in trendy restaurants and schmoozing in chic night clubs while shoppers rubberneck in total safety. I trust those good citizens realize they do so at the cost of much British Army blood.

    I'm happy Northern Ireland is peaceful now and hope that Eire's burgeoning economy spills over into Ulster though I can't help thinking the Marxist Adams and the fanatic Paisley and their ilk will be nothing but detrimental to the spiritual, moral and economic growth of the people they claim to represent.

    Other than that I don't think about it much.
  11. Thanks Buster dog, that's a pretty balanced view with someone from your hurtful experience.
  12. The Army. Northern Ireland is a world apart from those that served there in the 70's/80's/early 90's remember it. I quite happily walk around Belfast city centre, go drinking in Antrim. However, there are still areas that need some caution, as there are in most, if not all, cities. It's a sad fact, but I think those areas will always be there.
  13. FWIW There might not be snipers and car bombs, but the population is, IMHO more polarised than it has ever been. When the Troubles were "hot" there was a "have to" impetus, people were always eager to get on with life get on with other people, or at least make a show of doing so.

    These days.... What you have throught NI is a de facto aparthied system there's little trouble, little violence because the people by and large don't mix with "the other sort". Even the City Centre drinking spots are tribal, although not openly so.
  14. Cutaway

    Cutaway LE Reviewer

    True story B_B, very true.
    Thirty years of shooting's really going to smooth over several hundred years of hatred, right ?

    Nor will any amount of this government's pandering to the more violent types in the province change it either.
    But it's not about peace & normalisation is it ? The whole facade is another 'let's make Tony look good' operation.

    Else how will he become president of europe ?
  15. In my opinion, the changes that have been made in the Province over the last ten years, have positively changed the way in which day-to-day life occurs. No longer are there the vast quantities of killings and bombings that there once was. True, there are a small number of the above happening, but no worse than some cities.

    I doubt that Ulster will ever return to complete 'normality', but with the steps that have been taken in recent years; a real effort has been made, by both the paramilitary groups (yes, i believe that), and by the government (however, i disagree with a lot of the 'good friday agreement' terms) to bring some semblence of peace to the Province.