Politicians kept striving for a peace settlement Tuesday, despite a key negotiator’s warning that Northern Ireland was “moving closer and closer to all-out violence.”
In Belfast’s divided streets, Catholics and Protestants alike took little heart from the continuing deliberations - and instead braced for what they considered an inevitable next strike from extremists.
“People’s emotions are running high. We all feel like potential targets,” said Sam Magill, a Protestant delivering sacks of coal from a flatbed truck to Catholic homes in south-central Belfast.
A few hundred yards away, mourners gathered at the home of the latest Catholic victim, 52-year-old Larry Brennan, who was shot point-blank while sitting behind the wheel of his idling cab late Monday.
“He was a decent, kind, civil, generous man, with no grudges and no animosity. He certainly typifies the label ‘innocent victim,”’ said Dr. Alisdair McDonnell, a family friend.
“Larry didn’t judge people by their political affiliation, whether they were orange or green,” said Brennan’s sister, Eilish O’Reilly, who noted that Brennan’s fiancee and best friends were Protestant.
Such quiet realities of Northern Ireland life often can’t survive public exposure. Police asked Belfast newspapers not to reveal the name of Brennan’s fiancee or publish her picture after she received anonymous death threats Tuesday, and Brennan’s Protestant colleagues at work would not be interviewed on the record.
No group claimed responsibility for killing Brennan. But most suspect Northern Ireland’s largest pro-British paramilitary group, the Ulster Defense Association.
Gary McMichael, who represents the UDA in the talks, dismissed the speculation but added, “We’re moving closer and closer to all-out violence.”