BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: N Ireland  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Monday, 14 October, 2002, 08:46 GMT 09:46 UK
The view from South Down
BBC News Online has been taking the temperature on the suspension of Stormont among nationalist and unionist voters and their representatives. Here, nationalists have their say about the crisis.

South Down lies at the south-easterly edge of Northern Ireland and is dominated by views of the Mountains of Mourne which rise dramatically above the seaside resort of Newcastle.

Rural and quiet, the constituency takes in a string of towns and characterises the splendour of Northern Ireland's landscape, rolling hills, the sea and cottages dotted on the horizon.

South Down has been a nationalist seat for 15 years, held by the SDLP. There is a strong middle class vote with most people, unionist and nationalist, greatly concerned by the protection of rural jobs and a way of life.

The voice of Sinn Fein has generally been far less strong here than in other parts. But, just as in other nationalist areas, that republican voice is now on the rise.

There have also been a number of violent incidents perpetrated by dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

The South Down countryside
South Down: Majestic countryside
Kilkeel is a small fishing town near to the Irish border.

The political crisis at Stormont greatly concerns many nationalist residents in the town. "I think they should carry on with the work they have been doing," said one former fisherman, now tending his garden.

"They are never going to come to some sort of agreement if they don't just sit down and talk."

For this resident and many others, the real issue is jobs. Despite its turbulent short life, many here believed that the assembly had delivered hope, if not change, to this area.

If there were elections tomorrow I'd have to think very carefully. I've voted SDLP all my life but now I'm thinking that maybe Sinn Fein will do more

Nationalist resident, Kilkeel
"The fishing industry needs help," said the pensioner. "There's not a lot of life left in it. You can't do much to help it if you haven't got your own people [at Stormont].

"Outside people are not going to come and put money into an area like this if the situation is not stable."

There are other fears in the town. This is a place blighted by sectarianism.

"There are shops on one side of the road for us nationalists, and shops on the other side for the other tradition," said one resident.

"People from outside don't understand what a relief it's been to get a new supermarket - everyone has to shop in the same place now."

"We do feel let down by David Trimble. He knows that there needs to be change but he's destroyed a lot of trust that nationalists gave him

Nationalist resident
This continuing fear has made many in the town think about how they are going to vote in the future.

"Kilkeel is still too polarised, there's some deep-seated bigotry here," said one resident. "The agreement was supposed to be about equality but I don't think the police are there yet. I'm just so frustrated.

"If there were elections tomorrow I'd have to think very carefully about who I'd vote for. I've voted SDLP all my life but now I'm thinking that maybe Sinn Fein will do more to stand up for us."

So what did she think of David Trimble?

"You may be surprised but I think that Trimble is okay. The problem is he has been fighting for his leadership.

"But we do feel let down by him. He knows that there needs to be change but he's destroyed a lot of trust that nationalists gave him.

"He's got hung up on decommissioning but can't see that the IRA is never going to return to war. It's just not going to happen. They're as good as disbanded."

"We've managed to avoid much of the ghettoisation in many of our communities," said Eddie McGrady, the MP for South Down. "That's not to say that we haven't seen tragedies, we've had many of those.

Eddie McGrady, SDLP MP for South Down
Eddie McGrady: "Frustration and disappointment"
"But it's something that many people have worked at very hard for the past 30 years. "Down was the first council to willingly share power - it's been doing it since 1974 and I think it's been a real example to others."

Mr McGrady said he believed this kind of work had helped influence the response to the Good Friday Agreement in the area.

"I think that at the time of the referendum there was more support from unionists here than in other areas, may be as high as 70%. But the figures today, I would have no idea."

How do nationalists feel about the IRA?

"The nationalist community here has never had a preoccupation with decommissioning, simply from a practical point of view.

"You can have decommissioning in the morning and they could go and buy guns in the afternoon. It's far better to judge republicans by what they actually do.

"The problem is that lots of little things make it appear that republicans are keeping themselves tuned. And that means there's not a dreg of trust left [from unionists].

"I think there's a great deal of frustration and disappointment. People are worried about what suspension means, not least because of the appalling record of direct rule government.

"There's been tangible economic benefits and a general atmosphere of enthusiasm. That in itself brings a huge dividend.

"And that will go with suspension. People here feel very uncomfortable, there's a real sense of the unknown."

Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

AUDIO VIDEO
Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


 E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more N Ireland stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes