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Saturday, July 3, 1999 Published at 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK


Mixed town, mixed feelings

Clare Rice and son Damien, Downpatrick: "Worried about Sunday's march"

By BBC News Online's Neil Bennett in Downpatrick

They get on with life in Downpatrick - a town of 10,000 people 22 miles south of Belfast. But while it looked like any normal Friday, many had their minds on Stormont and whether their lives might really be changed forever.

Is it a deal or isn't it a deal? This is what Downpatrick and the rest of Northern Ireland will find out over the coming weeks. They wanted it now and the continuing delay is worrying.

30 years of Troubles

[ image: Albert Groves fears a vacuum]
Albert Groves fears a vacuum
"There will be a vacuum now", according to Albert Groves, who's 62 and who's lived through more than 30 years of the Troubles.

"We have got Drumcree coming up on Sunday and they still haven't sorted all these things out once and for all."

Clare Rice doesn't want her six-year-old son Damien to go through what her generation has gone through. "The politicians seem to be very stubborn don't they," she says.

Time of doubts

"Nobody wants it to go back to the way it was in Northern Ireland with so much killing and suffering. We've come so far but postponing agreement just keep the doubts hanging over our heads."

"If the talks had been more positive, we wouldn't be worrying so much about Sunday's march."

Downpatrick is a mixed Protestant and Catholic town but with a strong link to the Roman Catholic religion. Legend has it that St Patrick was buried here in the 12th century. His grave lies next to Down Cathedral on one of the hills overlooking the town.

Hope for the future has grown since the cease-fires and as permanent peace seemed tantalisingly close. Six million pounds is being spent on a new Saint Patrick visitor centre due to open in a year's time.

[ image: Paul Mullan -
Paul Mullan - "delay in peace process needs positive reply"
Paul Mullan, the project director, wanted an immediate and positive answer to the latest uncertainty in the peace process.

"This is so disappointing," he says. "We were in such of expectation that the future was settled.

"As a businessman in the tourist industry, I know that the people don't want to know about Northern Ireland unless they can be confident of coming here in the summer and enjoying what we have to offer in a peaceful climate."

The tourist traffic in Downpatrick in July is largely one way. Drumcree and all its associated tension is on Sunday and the marching season is in full swing throughout the province.

Many people have decided it's time to get out for their holidays. Not many are coming in.

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