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N. Ireland families want their children to inherit peace

Paul and Una McCabe
Paul McCabe and his daughter, Una, play traditional Irish music  
May 21, 1998
Web posted at: 8:57 p.m. EDT (0057 GMT)

From Correspondent Christiane Amanpour

AUGHNACLOY, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- The McCabe family looks like any normal, happy family. Father Paul and his daughter, Una, play traditional Irish music, while in the kitchen, mother Eilish and son, Finabarr, finish fixing dinner before he goes off to play Gaelic football.

But this normal-looking family lives in extraordinary circumstances. They are Catholics living in predominately Protestant Northern Ireland.

"My children have never grown up in a normal society," Eilish says. "Una and Finabarr don't know what it's like to experience normality.

Even though in their town of Aughnacloy soldiers are merely following routine and not looking for anything special, "You always kind of feel alienated in your own society, because you can't go up and down the streets without there being heavy security," Una says.

"You feel like you've done something wrong," she adds.

"It means missing out on knowing the other half of town," says Finabarr. "You don't get to know everybody."

Division seems a birthright

Catholic and Protestant youths go to different schools and even play different games. Finabarr and his friends play Gaelic football, and rarely does a Protestant join them.

Adults go to separate pubs. Catholics drink at the Rossmore Arms, while Protestants drink down the street.

In Northern Ireland, it seems, division is a birthright.

The McCabes say they will vote "yes" on the peace referendum Friday because they want equality and police reform, because they want to feel at home in their own land.

Like almost every family here, the McCabes lost someone they loved during sectarian violence. As parents, they want a different future for their children, while their children just want a chance.

'I don't want her to be brought up with hate'

Alex and Cathy Calderwood
Alex and Cathy Calderwood pray before eating a meal  

In contrast, Alex and Cathy Calderwood, like many Protestants in their Belfast community, say they don't trust the peace proposal and will vote against it. But they, too, want a different future for their 16-month-old daughter Mary Ellen.

"I don't want her to be brought up with hate. I don't want her to be brought up with a stereotypical view," Cathy says.

This family knows all about hate and stereotypes. Alex joined a Protestant paramilitary group at 16 and spent 13 years in jail for killing a Catholic.

"Because of the hatred that I had for Catholics, I wanted to take action against people from that community. And yes, I did want to kill people from that community, simply because of the way that I grew up as a child," he says.

But in jail, he had a religious experience and repented. Now, he's determined to work with other at-risk youngsters, trying to keep them from giving in to the culture of violence that envelops them.

"In 30 years of troubles, Protestant tears are the same as Catholic tears. That would be the message I would hope to get across, that Protestants and Catholics are the same in the sense that we can work together for social harmony," he says.


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