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Story Publication logo July 2, 2009

In the Shadow of the Walls

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In talking about the Real IRA, the splinter group that took responsibility for the March 7 attack on...

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Early on a Sunday evening a group of Catholic teenagers huddle in the corner of an empty construction site getting drunk. Nearby, four amateur pyromaniacs set fire to an old football jersey on a stone that bares the spray-painted message: "COPS NOT WELCOM."

This is the Catholic neighborhood of Clonard, just off The Falls Road. It is separated from the Protestant neighborhood of Shankill by a 40-foot-high wall, called a "peace line." There are at least 40 such walls all over Northern Ireland, the most recent of which was built just in 2008 around a school that is religiously integrated. The wall where these youths have gathered is one of the oldest, dating back to the early 1970s.

Most of modern Belfast has moved on from The Troubles — the ethno-political conflict that began in the 1960s. But the working class areas, still divided by peace lines, continue to live with the legacy of violence.

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