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Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 15:16 GMT


May (1): People of Northern Ireland



Review of the Year
The people of Northern Ireland have had an historic year, ranging from the euphoria many felt at the referendum vote to the horror of Omagh. They speak about how they felt at key points during 1998:

Northern Ireland assembly elections

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"I voted yes because I think that any progress is better than no progress, after my entire lifetime of people stamping their feet and saying, 'This isn't good enough, blah, blah' and one thing and another, I think any progress was better than none at all."
Teacher, 25

"I voted no because I didn't want to create a society where the more people you kill, the more atrocities you carry out, the more bombings, the more life you take, the better person you are. That's the kind of society, through a yes result, we have created in Northern Ireland."
Businessman, 30

"I voted yes because like 70% of us, it's because I thought it was the only way forward - there's been too many times where people have said no."
Electricity worker, 42

"I feel I have been excluded from the peace process. I live in Portadown in County Armagh, a town where 7% of the population are holding the rest of the town to ransom."
Housewife, 30

"I don't think the agreement will bring about a lasting peace. I think the agreement is fatally flawed. It's called a peace agreement, but it's an agreement between political parties and peace can only be created when paramilitaries are crushed in this part of the United Kingdom for once and for all."
Female solicitor, 28

"I voted for Sinn Fein in the assembly elections because they seem to be honest brokers in this, anything that they've said is believable, they seem like the ones that you can trust and I think they have made a positive contribution. Not just Sinn Fein but also from the loyalist side, I couldn't say the same for the unionists."
Sinn Fein voter, 41


Omagh bombing


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"My lasting memory was the night of Omagh bombing. I was actually celebrating my birthday and we were sitting at a friend's house in Belfast. We had planned to go into town that night, and we just looked round at one another and decided on the spot we felt physically sick and weren't able to go out. We decided to go and donate blood instead we thought it would be a much more practical and appropriate thing to do."
Businessman, 24

"Well I'm from Omagh and had three sisters and a niece involved in the bomb and I buried a few people and I'm absolutely disgusted by it. It solved nothing. It just turned me more against so-called nationalism even though I'm supposed to be a nationalist by birth."
Barman, 26

"The Omagh bombing will be forgotten. It was just all media hype, that to me is the sad thing about it."
Office worker, 29

"Growing up in the Troubles you become immune to these things, but at that time it was somehow different, I think it was the shock, You sort of thought it wasn't going to happen again. Although there were Catholics getting killed in the streets you never sort of thought there would be a bomb like that again."
Bouncer, 34

"Horror, absolute horror like everyone, everyone was shook by that even down in the guts of the Republic where I'm from."
Care worker 27

"There has been that many turning points in the history of Northern Ireland, go back to La Mons, all the other atrocities, Narrowwater near Warrenpoint at that time they were always turning points, so I don't see any reason to suspect that Omagh was a turning point."
Doctor, 40

"The key lesson to learn from the bombing is that the only solution to the problems in this part of the UK is to crush and defeat illegal paramilitary organisations for once and for all."
Electrician, 27

"I thought it was a disgrace to be frank. I've never condoned any of the political violence. I don't think any of the terrorist groups reflect the personal views of people in Northern Ireland. Any mass murder is a disgrace. It came at a very bad time and more than any of the huge bombings of the past, it was a turning point, even when I was abroad it was all over the news, it made me think twice."
Lecturer, 38


Drumcree


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"The Orangemen should have been allowed to parade down the Garvaghy Road. We live in a society where the key theme is to live and let live and tolerance for all people.

Yet we have a situation in this part of the UK where 60-65% of the population are prohibited from enjoying their rights."
Businessman, 44

"No the Orangemen shouldn't have been barred. It's only, what a 10 or 15 minute parade? There has to be a bit of give and take on both sides in the community we live in. One side is just as thick as the other in this country so for the sake of 10-15 minutes, I see no reason why they shouldn't have done it. I just felt, even if it was for the first time, there was no reason why they shouldn't have been able to walk down it."
SDLP voter, 32

"I certainly think the march should have been barred. Their claim to marching through Catholic areas is that they've done it for so long. Demographics have changed in Belfast, even though the constituency alignments haven't. It's important to reflect the fact that populations do shift and the fact that you can march down a street one year doesn't mean you can do it the next."
Unemployed, 27

"It's the residents' right to refuse, it's the residents' right also to give them permission if they feel that's what they want to do. If they refuse they are within their rights to do that."
Nurse, 28

"I think it was right they were barred from walking down the road because it doesn't solve any problems. Certainly they have a right to march and a right to their own culture but I don't think they should be marching down nationalist areas, they should stick to their own areas."
Bar manager, 37

"People living there don't want them going down that road. It's black and white as far as I can see. Why should they march where they're not wanted? You never see a republican band walking down the Shankill Road or a Protestant area of Portadown. It just wouldn't happen."
Sinn Fein voter, 34


The future


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"I hope the peace agreement will bring a more just and fair society within Northern Ireland, where there is true parity of esteem and true equality irrespective of political opinion or religious affiliation.

But I think 1999 will probably bring more death, more destruction, more tears, and more sorrow to all too many families in this part of the United Kingdom."
Businessman, 24

"I've been abroad for a few years and I've come home recently, and I see the difference. A lot of my friends don't because they still live here. I actually see the difference. There are no soldiers on the streets, there's not as much tension around. I find that it's a much more happy place to be after living on mainland Europe. It's certainly a pleasure to come home.

The things that drove me away from here - there was no peace, no jobs, all this tension, being on the dole, the same circular arguments, it was important to me that when I came home, that people were making progress in the way they talked."
Engineer, 28

"The assembly should succeed. We'll inch forward, slowly but surely, we couldn't have envisaged the situation we're in now say two or three years ago, but I think now there is light at the end of the tunnel. It's gonna take time."
Electricity worker, 41

"It's going to take years and years of breaking down barriers of mistrust and hatred even. Because I work in a bar I chat to people generally and the feeling is we are working towards something."
Waitress, 22

"I am hopeful that the agreement doesn't collapse and that it does go on to good things."
Unemployed,19

"Yes I'm very hopeful and I think this country is going in the right direction economically and I think we're gearing towards tourism, and there's been a lot of jobs been created and if we do get peace it will be a great wee country to live in."
Plumber, 46

"Well I think that the process has stalled a wee bit, but that shouldn't worry us too much - Rome wasn't built in a day. We should all sit down and talk over our differences."
Builder, 31





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In this section

January: Scott Ritter

February: Touched by an angel

March: Jane Couch

April: Gitta Sereny

May (1): People of Northern Ireland

May (2): Mo Mowlam

June: The England-Argentina referee

July: Gill Samuels, Viagra creator

August: David Shayler

September: Neville Lawrence

October: Ann Widdecombe

November: Sally Becker

December: Deborah Hickey