100,000 people send message of peace to IRA
SOME 100,000 people took part in dozens of peace rallies in towns throughout the Republic St day. Helped by the good weather, attendances in most places exceeded expectations.
In London, however, a parallel event held in driving rain attracted only 60 people.
The largest crowd was recorded in Dublin, where about 25,000 people marched. Cork, where 15,000 people participated, saw its biggest protest in decades.
In Tralee, the President, Mrs Robinson, lit a white candle for peace at a prayer service in St John's Church of Ireland church at the start of a march through the town. As the President left the church, a local woman, Mrs Joan Rogers, released three white pigeons. The Tanaiste, Mr Spring, walked with the crowd, estimated at 5,000, to the Catholic church for another prayer service.
In Cork, the Lord Mayor, Mr Joe O'Callaghan, called on the IRA to resume its ceasefire and said that governments and politicians should be willing to compromise to save the peace process.
Mr O'Callaghan told some 15,000 marchers that peace was not owned by the Provisional IRA, nor was it to be granted or denied for political ends.
"The message to the Provisional IRA is crystal clear from the people of Cork, which just a few generations ago was the heartland of republican Ireland - `Cease fire - give us back our peace'."
In Gorey, Co Wexford, the home town of the London bomber Ed O'Brien, the main churches held an inter denominational service. A local Catholic priest, Father Dennis Browne, told the congregation that, in almost 30 years of conflict, violence had often seemed remote and unreal. However, during the past week, the "true horror" of it had been brought home to our streets. "The pain and suffering of the O'Brien family has brought us together here today", he said.
Mr and Mrs O'Brien, the parents of Ed O'Brien, attended the service, but asked that they not be photographed or filmed.
In Limerick, several thousand turned out as the bells of St Mary's Cathedral rang. The crowd joined a lone piper in singing Amazing Grace.
The Minister for Health, Mr Noonan, said that the huge crowd reflected the desire for peace. "The manner in which a young man from Gorey lost his life and another young man from Dublin was seriously injured last week typifies the uselessness of violence."
An estimated 6,000 people attended peace demonstrations throughout Co Galway yesterday. In Galway city, about 700 people attended a gathering in Eyre Square. About a dozen Sinn Fein supporters carried a large banner calling for "all party peace talks now".
Some 1,500 marched in Tuam, 500 in Gort and 300 in Clifden.
In Wexford, the Bishop of Ferns, Dr Comiskey, reminded 3,000 people at a rally of Pope John Paul's speech in Drogheda, Co Louth, calling for peace.
Sinn Fein members were in evidence at the rally in Dundalk, attended by 500 people. Up to 6,000 people marched in Trim, Co Meath, as did about 3,000 in
Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, while several hundred marched in Drogheda and Ardee.
There were minor scuffles between marchers and members of Sinn Fein at a peace rally in Sligo. Sinn Fein members in a crowd of more than 7,000 had their placards torn up by other angry marchers.
In a statement from the White House, President Bill Clinton said: "I join the people of Northern Ireland as you gather together in a mass vigil for peace. The bombs that shattered the ceasefire and murdered and maimed innocent people in London must not be the path of the future."
He said that yesterday's rallies underscored that people wanted peace and that they deserved peace.