MOY, Northern Ireland — To understand why Northern Ireland's conflict has defied solution for so long, take the road less traveled and meet the divided people of Moy.
The popular image of Northern Ireland is of urban Belfast battlegrounds, where high steel barricades daubed with tribal slogans make divisions between Catholic and Protestant immediate and obvious.
But most voters being asked to judge Northern Ireland's peace accord in Friday's referendum live in unassuming suburbs or in deceptively gentle places like Moy, 40 miles southwest of Belfast amid the blackberry hedgerows and rolling pasture of County Tyrone.
This thriving crossroads village, with a broad 18th-century square of shops and pubs and duplex houses, is free of sectarian graffiti. None of its curbstones are painted the red, white and blue of the Union Jack, nor the green, white and orange of the Irish Republic.
You might conclude that "the troubles" of the last three decades have bypassed this community near Northern Ireland's disputed border.
But the issues of inequality, intimidation and shifting demography that drove Northern Ireland to desperation a generation ago have all found a painful home in Moy.
Here, some Catholics once turned to the gun to get what they wanted, but now openly question whether the bloodshed was worth it. Here, the Protestants who once ruled the roost are now in retreat, demographically, economically and politically.
The Protestants' reversal of fortune, and the battle fatigue permeating both sides, did much to make possible the U.S.-brokered accord of April 10, which is likely to be ratified in referendums in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
But the vote won't quickly change the pervasive sectarianism of small communities like Moy, where communal divisions run silent and deep.
"There's two sets of everything here: two chemists, two butchers, two supermarkets . . . one for each side of the community," says the Rev. Lawrence Hilditch, the Presbyterian minister who, like many Moy citizens, isn't sure yet how he'll vote in the referendum.
"They say there's 32 different ways to tell if you're Protestant or Roman Catholic," Hilditch says. "The last rule is what time in the day you're buried: Catholics in the morning, Protestants in the afternoon."
Moy's segregated cemeteries testify to one of Northern Ireland's most intense murder rates.
Twenty-two people have been slain in or near the village, starting with an orgy of tit-for-tat bloodshed in the mid-1970s and concluding with a second spasm early this decade.
The memories have scarred two generations, who cite their dead by rote. Each name is another reason why their community is the victim and the other the aggressor.
Killing at such close quarters means, too, that the man who murdered your loved one might be your neighbor.
She Sees Brother's Killer All the Time
In her immaculate home beside the River Blackwater, Edie Elliott displays photos of her husband, William, a retired soldier gunned down at a cattle market 18 years ago, and her brother, John Donnelly, an off-duty soldier killed in one of Moy's Catholic-run pubs 10 months later.
"The IRA gunman walked in and shot my brother point-blank. He wasn't masked. People saw who he was, a Moy boy. But none of the people in the bar would tell the police," she says, holding back tears.
"I see him almost every day now, my brother's killer, whenever I walk into the village."
Such slayings have made Moy, like much of Northern Ireland's borderland, off-limits as a home for Protestants working in British uniform. The police barracks on the village's north end has high fencing to block Irish Republican Army rockets and car bombs, and is staffed only by day.
The lone soldier on Moy's main street today is made of white marble, a monument to British soldiers from the area who perished in the trenches of World War I.
The stone bugler immortalizes, too, a lost age of unity. The roll call of the dead includes obvious Protestant surnames: Allen, Carson, Irwin, Proctor, Walker. But Catholic-sounding names also have their place: Gallagher, McGuigan, Murphy, Meenagh.
"The men of Ulster, on many fields, have proved how nobly they fight and die," reads the engraved tribute from King George V.
In June 1921, as the predominantly Catholic rest of Ireland rebelled successfully against Britain, the same king opened a Belfast Parliament for Northern Ireland, whose border was drawn specifically to create a new province with a solid pro-British Protestant majority.
A History of Repression
Since then, life in Moy has reflected Northern Ireland's wider battle for stability.
As recently as the 1960s, Moy was predominantly Protestant, as were the businesses along the main road connecting the village to the towns of Dungannon to the north, Portadown to the east and Armagh to the south.