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Peacefully Done
Alexander Wolff
November 29, 1993
In bloody Belfast, hatreds were put aside as World Cup—bound Ireland tied Northern Ireland
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November 29, 1993

Peacefully Done

In bloody Belfast, hatreds were put aside as World Cup—bound Ireland tied Northern Ireland

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But this is no night for brotherhood, either. From outside the stadium you hear the singing of a few of the Republic's fans who are still inside—cordoned by security guards—and are finally able to unbottle their emotions as they wait to be escorted from the grounds. A man walking next to you is enraged. "Listen to the scum in there!" he snarls. "Singing! Someone should machine gun 'em! Trick or treat, bastards!"

The next morning Archie tries to make sense of what you saw. "Last night, for the people there, it was war without guns," he says. "But the result, it was an Irish dream. Nobody lost, and the Republic went through. For a pure Irishman, it couldn't have worked out any better."

Before imbibing the agreed-upon Guinness, the two of you drive around Belfast. A cab driver is usually the most clichéd window through which to view a strange place, but Archie is no hackneyed hack, and his profession is one of this city's most extraordinary. Cabbies are shot all the time in Belfast. By law, taxis are supposed to carry roof signs indicating the company they belong to. But some companies are so sectarian that a roof sign might as well be a bull's-eye, and Archie keeps his in the trunk. "A cop may stop me over it," he says. "But I just tell him I'm not ready to leave the wee ones for a few years yet, and he understands."

You pass the concrete-and-barbed-wire "peace lines" that keep neighbors from neighbors. You pass through the Falls, with its shops selling rosaries and other Catholic sundries, and murals bearing taut oaths of defiance and portraits of IRA martyrs such as Bobby Sands. You pass through the Shankill, where the walls scream NO SURRENDER and a huge gap in one block looks like someone has extracted a tooth. This is where Frizzell's Fish Shop stood, not 100 paces from where Archie grew up, until an IRA bomb leveled it on Oct. 23, killing 10. You pass the regrettably busy Royal Victoria Hospital. "Best experts in the world on gunshot wounds," Archie says, voice flat, as if he were pointing out some museum or botanical garden. "They've pioneered all methods of replacing kneecaps and joints with titanium and steel."

You do not pass City Hall. Downtown traffic is jammed. The biggest peace demonstration in 25 years has drawn 30,000 people who, like Archie, may not like each other but have no enemies. Belfast has a toothache, you decide, and its people desperately want to see a dentist.

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