Attacks raise concerns in Northern Ireland





LURGAN, Northern Ireland – Bursts of laughter. Young men playing ping pong. Battles of the bands.

In a Northern Ireland determined to put conflict behind it, the Links teen center bridges the divide between Catholic and Protestant teens in this struggling town, giving them something to do, an alternative to streets that offer a toxic mix of drugs and violence. It's working, but like the peace process itself, it is under strain amid looming budget cuts.

"We're just keeping our heads above water," said Martin Larkham, 52, a youth work manager. "Everybody is."

Tough times are hitting promising initiatives like Links — and causing unease about the very fate of Northern Ireland's peace deal. As the troubled territory slogs through the worst economic downturn in decades, dissident Irish nationalist militias are getting increasingly restless — carrying out a string of violent acts including a recent bombing that injured three children....



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