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Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 17:43 GMT
Dissident loyalists threaten teachers
Group walking to the Holy Cross School
Teachers at Catholic schools have been threatened
There has been widespread condemnation of a threat made against teachers at Catholic schools in north Belfast by a dissident loyalist group.

The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used in the past by loyalist paramilitary groups the Ulster Defence Association and the Loyalist Volunteer Force, said teachers and any Catholics who work in Catholic schools in the north of the city would be considered "legitimate targets".

On Saturday, Catholic postal workers were told they were being considered legitimate targets following the murder of a 20-year-old Catholic postman.

Daniel McColgan was shot as he went to work in a postal sorting office in the predominately loyalist Rathcoole estate.


It is particularly repugnant when these thugs hold children and the staff in charge of them to ransom in this way

Tom McKee NASUWT

Tom McKee of the teachers union, the NASUWT, described the threat as repugnant.

"There is concern and there is fear about how the violence is escalating," he said.

"No individual in any civilised society should be regarded as a legitimate target for violence.

'Unacceptable'

"It is particularly repugnant when these thugs hold children and the staff in charge of them to ransom in this way."

The DUP MP for the area Nigel Dodds said such attacks and threats had no support in the wider community.

"This is absolutely unacceptable in society," he said.

"I think the vast majority of decent people on both sides of the community abhor totally these types of threats or attacks."

The threat has also been condemned by the Northern Ireland's education minister Martin McGuinness and the Irish minister for foreign affairs, Brian Cowen.

See also:

11 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Tight security as schools reopen
07 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Counting the cost against the children
10 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
North Belfast's streets of hatred
09 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Rioting follows NI school dispute
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