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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
Buses offer to end school protest
Pupils return home from school with security escort
Talks will not start before Monday's school run
Protestant residents in north Belfast have offered to end their protests at Holy Cross if children are bused to the Catholic school.

After six weeks of sectarian tension, the group representing the protesters proposed that the pupils of Holy Cross Catholic Primary School should be taken by bus up the Ardyone Road into the Protestant area where the school lies.

They said their proposal would stop the situation in the area getting worse.

The pupils have been escorted to school every day by the police past protesting loyalists.

The protest has been relatively peaceful in recent weeks, but it erupted into serious violence in September.


Tensions whipped up by the dispute have spilled onto the streets of north Belfast at night in recent weeks.

The Protestant residents say they are protesting because of attacks on their homes by republicans from the larger Catholic community in Ardoyne.

In a statement, the Concerned Residents of Upper Ardoyne said: "This is a reasonable compromise which will deliver the relative calm and reciprocation required to allow an immediate suspension of the protest."

They said their offer involved pupils and children using Belfast Education and Library Board buses to take the Ardoyne Road route.

The group said this would protect the children's rights and lift the "fear and intimidation" to which they have been intimidated.

The offer came after the head of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission urged north Belfast loyalists to stop intimidating Holy Cross schoolgirls.

'Acceptance unlikely'

Professor Brice Dickson accepted both sides in the dispute had been guilty of hurling abuse, but insisted there was no excuse for involving children.

He said: "Protests should always be peaceful and non-threatening. Above all they cannot be allowed to interfere with the right of children to get to our from their school."

Chairman of Holy Cross board of governors, Father Aidan Troy, said he did not believe the proposal would be supported by parents of children at the school.

The Northern Ireland Office has been trying to broker talks between the Catholic and Protestant residents of Ardoyne. So far one face-to-face meeting has been held.

New 'peaceline'

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Northern Ireland Security Minister Jane Kennedy announced that the peaceline security wall in the area would be extended to try to create a feeling of security in the two communities.

The new wall will separate the loyalist Glenbryn estate, where Holy Cross school lies, from Catholic Alliance Avenue which backs onto it.

However, the residents of upper Ardoyne have said they want the security measures to go further and that a permanent security gate should be installed on the Ardoyne Road to separate the two communities at night.

See also:

12 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Tensions at Belfast dispute school
11 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Peace wall for school dispute
01 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Ministers tackle north Belfast violence
04 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Church plea over dispute school
06 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Ardoyne school dispute: Parents' dilemma
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