By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press
DUBLIN (AP) — The names of 3,700 dead from Northern Ireland's conflict were read aloud in a Dublin church on the 14th anniversary of the Good Friday peace agreement, an annual ceremony designed to underscore the terrible scope of lives lost.
The Unitarian Church beside the capital's central park remembers the dead each Good Friday as ministers, congregation members and others take turns reading all names of those killed during the past 46 years of bloodshed over the British territory. The list includes about 250 people killed in the Republic of Ireland and in England, chiefly by the Irish Republican Army, as well as 18 in continental Europe.
Paramilitary cease-fires that preceded the Good Friday accord of 1998 have abated the violence, but IRA splinter groups still mount occasional bombings and shootings in Northern Ireland that create new victims each year. The dissidents seek to reverse the peace deal's key achievements: a stable Catholic-Protestant government in Belfast, cross-community support for the police, and the 2005 demise of the major IRA faction, the Provisional IRA.
Friday's list of victims was read alphabetically, about 20 names per minute, over the course of three hours. One of the organizers, Andy Pollak, said it was crucial for all of Ireland to remember how the conflict created victims of every age, in every walk of life.
"All human life and death is in this mournful list," said Pollak, who directs the Centre for Cross Border Studies, an organization promoting cooperation between the north and south of Ireland.
The first victim named was British Army gunner Anthony Abbott, a 19-year-old from Manchester in England, who was fatally shot in the chest Oct. 24, 1976, by the IRA as he was helping a police unit recover a stolen car that had been involved in a hit-and-run accident.
The last victims on Friday's list were William Younger, 87, and his daughter Letitia, 50. They were Protestants living in a Catholic part of north Belfast who were beaten, stabbed and shot in their home on Aug. 15, 1980. The father was killed in his bed, his daughter in the living room, where she was found pinned to the floor with a pitchfork through her neck.
Chronologically the first victim of the Northern Ireland conflict was John Scullion, a 28-year-old Belfast Catholic who was shot by members of an extremist British Protestant gang, the Ulster Volunteer Force, at the door of his west Belfast home on May 27, 1966.
The most recent was a Catholic recruit to the Northern Ireland police, 25-year-old Ronan Kerr, who was killed on April 3, 2011, when a booby-trap bomb placed by IRA dissidents under his car exploded outside his home.
In all, the Provisional IRA and other anti-British paramilitary groups have killed about 2,170 people, including more than 160 of their own members; anti-Irish gangs from Protestant areas killed 1,065, mostly Catholic civilians; the British Army killed 309, the Northern Ireland police 52, and Irish security forces five; and about 100 died in mob violence or unclear circumstances.