Nov. 12, 2010: Can peace prevail in the stained streets of Belfast? by Colm Lambe

As innocent victims howl in the aftermath of an explosion in the streets of Belfast, in Northern Ireland, the thought of peace seems distant. Belfast is separated between Catholics and Protestants who have killed each other for more than 30 years. Innocent victims of all ages have died during these troubled times. Bullets, bombs and knives have all been used to kill and injure innocent children, men and women.

Although people have tried to spread the word of peace, some people insist that anarchy is the most profitable way of continuing.

Catholics fought for civil rights and to become part of the independent Republic of Ireland.  The minority Catholics in Northern Ireland, which remains a part of the United Kingdom, were treated as second-class citizens by their majority Protestant counterparts who wished to stay loyal to the British Empire.

The difference in opinion transformed Belfast into a war zone.  Catholics formed paramilitary groups like the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to protect Catholics who were being harassed by Protestants. In response, Protestants formed their own paramilitary groups, like the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). The IRA and UVF have destroyed innocent families and taken hundreds of lives over the past three decades.

Ceasefires — including the 1998 “Good Friday Agreement” that officially ended the violence — have been tried to derail the burning hate that separates Belfast, but nothing has changed. Innocent lives have still been lost, and the word “peace” is still spoken like a childhood dream.

When will people finally realize that killing each other is not the way we must treat those who have different opinions?  When will the island of Ireland wake up and realize that this game of cat and mouse has terrorized people of both religions and the innocent bloodstained footpaths can never be cleansed?

I have spent many summers in Belfast with my father’s family. I have seen bombs exploding and ash hanging in the air like a soul on its way to heaven. I have heard gunshots in the night and seen the headlines in the next day’s newspaper. Although peace sometimes seems like a dream, the nightmare of war is a reality.

The reality of peace can only come true, however, by keeping the fragile dream alive.

• Colm Lambe is from Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland. He is a student at Cloud County Community College and a member of the T-Birds soccer team.

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