About 3,700 people have been killed in the Northern Ireland conflict since the late 1960s. But peacemaking efforts since the early 1990s have greatly reduced the death and destruction, with the major outlawed groups — the Provisional Irish Republican Army on the Catholic side, and the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence Association on the Protestant side — all agreeing to disarm and renounce violence since 2005.
But several small IRA factions continue to mount occasional gun and bomb attacks, most recently shooting to death a prison guard last month as he drove to work.
And Northern Ireland itself remains segregated by mutual consent in many ways, with Catholics and Protestants attending separate school systems, rooting for different sports, and above all living in different communities. Much of Belfast remains physically divided by high security walls called "peace lines." The Protestant side colors its curb stones the red, white and blue of the Union Jack, while the Catholic side paints them the green, white and orange of the Irish Republic.
Against this pervasive sectarian backdrop, Alliance attempts to be studiously neutral and manages to offend both sides for different reasons. Even the party's website avoids the British "co.uk" or Irish "ie" in favor of the neutral "org."
Alliance Party: http://allianceparty.org/
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