Irish Republican News and Information, 9 January 2002, 

Holy Cross parents attacked, school blockaded

Children and parents of Holy Cross school in north Belfast have been the victims of renewed loyalist attacks this afternoon. The school is situated at a volatile interface between a loyalist estate and the nationalist Ardoyne area.

The children were once again subjected to a blockade of their school, while their parents have been attacked by a loyalist mob. The schoolgirls, some as young as four, have now been evacuated from the area amid fears of a return to the harrowing scenes of last year. The school is to remain closed tomorrow in a bid to ease tensions.

For several weeks in the autumn the children and parents had been the subject of sustained loyalist abuse and violence on the infamous "corridor of hate" to and from the school. It had been hoped would that talks and a major funding boost for the area would end the virtual siege of the school, but it the situation is once again volatile.

School chairman Fr Troy said:

"I'm afraid we could be back to square one again. There has been aggravation on the road since Monday. Thankfully all the children have been safely removed from the school." Fr Troy expressed concern that the loyalist blockade could resume at the school. He said: "It's looking awfully like it to me. I just hope I'm wrong. I'm not sure that the school can open tomorrow. It's as bad as that."

Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan said it appeared loyalists were intent on renewing their controversial protest.

"Clearly the actions of these loyalists were organised to some degree," she said. She accused loyalists of deliberately raising sectarian tensions in North Belfast by verbally and physically abusing parents going to pick up their children at Holy Cross Primary school prior to today's blockade. "As parents of children at Holy Cross made their way up the Ardoyne Road this afternoon to collect their children from school they were verbally abused, spat on and assaulted by loyalists in the Glenbryn area," she said. She said those responsible for the attacks and the blockade were following the same agenda as the paramilitary UDA have been following over the past number of years. "I would call upon unionist and loyalist politicians to work to end this situation before it gets out of control."

North Belfast Assembly member Billy Hutchinson, a political representative for the loyalist UVF, said he hoped that today's trouble would not lead to a resumption of what he described as "protests", but he added: "The potential is there. I wouldn't be surprised if people say that the protest is back on."

Loyalist attacks are reported to be continuing in the area this evening and nationalists are being urged to remain vigilant.