London – Tens of thousands of people took part in rallies across Northern Ireland Wednesday to protest at the recent upsurge of terrorist violence in which two soldiers and a police officer were murdered.
The city centre of the capital Belfast was brought to a standstill at lunchtime as people flocked from shops, homes, offices, hospitals and schools to join the silent protests, as similar rallies took place in towns and cities throughout the province.
“I’m not going to sign up for that again,” said a well-dressed woman in her 50s, referring to the 30 years of civil strife and religious conflict in Northern Ireland.
“I grew up here, and I saw things a child should not really see,” said a young mother. She did not want her baby boy to grow up with “bigotry, hatred and murder.”
The protests, organized by trade unions, took place as police were questioning two men, aged 17 and 37, in connection with the killing Monday of a police officer in the southern town of Craigavon.
Last Saturday, two British soldiers, both in their 20s, were gunned down outside an army barracks north of Belfast. It was the first lethal attack on British forces in Northern Ireland since 1997.
Republican dissident which broke off from the now disbanded paramilitary Irish Republican Army (IRA) claimed responsibility for the attacks.
A peace vigil was also held in Craigavon, ay predominantly Catholic town, where the 48-year-old police officer was gunned down Monday.
However, there were also signs Wednesday that reconciliation still has a long way to go in Northern Ireland.
Flowers placed at the spot where police officer Stephen Carroll died were burnt overnight, as graffiti sprayed on houses revealed support for Republican splinter groups opposed to the peace process. (dpa)