Northern Ireland has been quiet for so long now that it seems to have slipped right off the political agenda - but it hasn't been quiet if you live there, depending on where you live. The old enmity between Catholic and Protestant has not gone away - certainly not at the level of the street. There's more proof of that. In just over an hour from now, the last ten Protestant families will be moving from their homes in the Torrens Estate in North Belfast after what they say has been a sustained campaign of intimidation by Catholics. They decided earlier this year that they could take no more and applied to be re-housed. Our correspondent, Mark Simpson is in Belfast. "What sort of intimidation are we talking about here, Mark?"
Petrol bombs, physical abuse, sectarian abuse, verbal abuse. You'll not be surprised to hear, John, that all the Protestants in this area blame all the Catholics for the problems (reporter says Protestants) and, yes, all the Catholics blame the Protestants. The only thing that the two communities actually agree on is that sectarian tensions have actually got worse here during the Peace Process - rather than better. Now, needless to say, Northern Ireland being Northern Ireland - the violence and intimidation has not been all one- sided. But the Protestants are very much the smaller of the two communities in this particular area, and they say they have come off much, much worse. As you know, ten families are leaving shortly, including Elizabeth Ferguson and her two young children. Now, as Elizabeth packed up to go, she told me about her life on the so-called Peaceline.
It's been a terrible! Two weeks... three weeks ago, I got up the
other morning and they had wrote IRA on my living room and on my
front window, and they also done it on my daddy's fence. And the
girl across the street - her car got INLA wrote on it, as well.
It's been terrible, so it has. It only started since 1996 - since
Drumcree - so it did.
Many people watching this: in England and Wales and Scotland, will be thinking: well, hang on; I thought there was supposed to be a Peace Process in Northern Ireland.
No Peace Process here. We get it all the time, so we do. If it's not during going to school - it's at the weekend, we get it. They attack these houses at the weekend, so they do, and I can't go to Cliftonville School with my two kids - because every time I go, I am getting spat at with women and children and also I get called "Orange B", so I do - and it's not right - so it's not. It's terrible what you have to put with.
Who do you blame?
The Nationalist people. It's the nationalists that's forcing us out of our home, so it is. I blame nobody else only them uns. If it was the other way round, if we were forcing them uns out of their home - what would they do about it? I do - I feel terrible that I have to move out of my house because I have been here 38 years and I feel disgusted that I have to go. We're not going on our own free will - what your man in the Telegraph said - Sinn Fein man said - we're not going on our own free will, we're being intimidated out, so we're.
This is 2004. Why can't Catholics and Protestants in Belfast now just live in peace?
They'll never live in peace, never - not in my time, like. But maybe in my son's time. But not in my time they'll never live in peace, because we've got stones, bricks and everything threw at us. They set a fire round there on Saturday night. They set a fire, our house on fire, so they did. They must have threw a petrol bomb in the back - I don't know, but it's gutted, so it is. And that's what they do. I am scared going to bed at night with my two kids, just in case a petrol bomb comes through my window.
(Report from BBC Radio 4's Today programme 26/08/2004)