Protestants in North Belfast suspended daily protests in late November after police increased surveillance in their bomb-scarred neighborhood. For the first time in months, Catholic students freely walked through a Protestant neighborhood to their school.

Despite Northern Ireland's 1998 Good Friday peace accord, Catholics and Protestants still engage in sectarian confrontation. Sources say that Protestant extremists, such as the terrorist Red Hand Defenders, are behind much of the recent violence. Since the late 1960s, Protestants and Catholics have waged a violent struggle over political control of the six counties that make up Northern Ireland.

The British Parliament divided Northern and Southern Ireland in 1920. In 1921, Northern Ireland elected to stay in the United Kingdom.

Assessing the damage for 2001, Northern Ireland officials report that hundreds of bombs injured 371 police officers, 8 British soldiers, and 103 civilians in North Belfast.

Process Moves Forward



The peace process moved forward last year. In October, the violent Irish Republican Army, which had sought to force the British from Northern Ireland, announced that it would "put [its] arms completely and verifiably beyond use."

In November, moderate Protestant leader David Trimble was reelected First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the home-rule body.

Trimble turned back a challenge to his leadership from hard-liners in his party, the Ulster Unionists.

Many Protestants continue to feel at risk. Evangelical Contribution on Northern Ireland (ECONI) warns that the latest IRA move does not guarantee peace.

Political measures are "not going to work if 25 percent of Northern Ireland's Protestant community feels alienated," says David Porter, director of ECONI. ...

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