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Sunday, 2 September, 2001, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Appeal to resolve school dispute
RUC officers watch a protest in June this year at the Holy Cross school
Stand-off: Protests in June this year
Church leaders have appealed for nationalist and loyalist residents to try and find a last-minute resolution to the dispute centred around a North Belfast school.

In June, loyalist protesters prevented Catholic schoolchildren at the Holy Cross Primary School in Ardoyne getting through the front gates.

Community groups have been holding talks to try to avert a repeat of protests which sparked violent clashes.

A new term starts on Monday, but so far no agreement has been reached.

'Pull back'

The parish priest of Holy Cross, Father Aidan Troy, said something had to be done to make sure there is no repeat of the violence.

If there is not a resolution on Monday morning I think that that would be the very worst of all situations

Reverend Stewart Heaney

"It is just is awful to think that there are so many people of goodwill, in Glenbryn and Ardoyne, and we seem to be incapable of reaching each other and of saying can we pull back from this," he said.

The local Church of Ireland rector, the Reverend Stewart Heaney, said people on both sides needed to step back.

"If there is not a resolution on Monday morning and the police or the security forces become involved, I think that that would be the very worst of all situations," he said.

"There would be losers on all sides."


More than 200 pupils are due to return to their classrooms.

But it is unclear whether or not Protestant residents in the area will stage a repeat of the demonstrations.

On Friday night, representatives of Catholic and Protestant groups met to try to resolve how pupils will get to school without loyalists blocking the road.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary has said that should there be no agreement, its main objective will be to protect the children and get them into school safely on Monday morning.

June's protests became a flashpoint for clashes between both communities which led to the RUC setting up a security cordon to keep the groups apart.

Rioting youths in Ardoyne earlier this year
Riots: Ardoyne became summer flashpoint

The tensions in north Belfast came to a head on 12 July when nationalist youths were involved in serious rioting after a Protestant Orange Order parade in the area.

Jim Potts, spokesman for the Concerned Residents of Upper Ardoyne, said that the area's Protestant community wanted reassurances that it would not face intimidation from republicans.

'Address concerns'

The Protestant residents may meet on Sunday to decide whether or not they will stage a protest outside the school.

Brendan Mailey, spokesman for the nationalist group representing the parents, said he welcomed the meeting.

However, he stressed that the group did not have the power to address the Protestant residents' wider concerns.

Ann Tanney, the school's principal, said that it was imperative that the children's educational needs were put first and that they did not become a "bargaining chip" in efforts to solve wider problems in the community.

BBC's Northern Ireland Correspondent Denis Murray
"It is a sign of just how deep the tensions run in North Belfast"

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough


Loyalist ceasefire





See also:

01 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Q&A: Tension in north Belfast
26 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Further protests at sectarian flashpoint
20 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Police keep factions apart
19 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Riot police called to school attack
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