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Thursday, 25 October, 2001, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Commission head meets RUC chief
Professor Dickson:
Professor Dickson: "Protest must now end"
The head of the Human Rights Commission, Professor Brice Dickson, has met RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan to discuss the Holy Cross school dispute in north Belfast.

Earlier, Professor Dickson renewed his call for Protestant residents involved in the protest to end their action, which is now in its eighth week.

He was speaking after he watched police in riot gear escort Catholic schoolgirls and their parents along the Ardoyne Road on Thursday.

Residents from the Glenbryn area, where the school is situated, have been protesting at the school because of alleged attacks by the larger Catholic community in Ardoyne.

Thursday's protest passed off without incident and the demonstrators remained silent, most with their backs turned to the school convoy.

'Entirely unacceptable'

Following the protest Professor Dickson said: "The commission's position is that it is an entirely unacceptable protest.

"We have said that many times and we would like it to be called off.

We would like the children and the parents to be able to walk up the street unhindered and with no abuse

Professor Brice Dickson

"We would like the children and the parents to be able to walk up the street unhindered and with no abuse."

Professor Dickson was again heckled by parents as he made his comments.

On Tuesday, loyalists involved in the protest displayed a poster marking the anniversary of the Shankill bombing.

On the poster were the words "Walk of Shame", attached to photographs of the bomb victims.

The pupils have been escorted past the loyalist protesters by the security forces every day since the beginning of the school term.

The placard and whistle protest has been relatively peaceful in recent weeks, but it erupted into violence at the beginning of September.

Threat of violence

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said the Catholic parents had taken a death threat made against them by a loyalist grouping very seriously.

The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by the Ulster Defence Association and the Loyalist Volunteer Force, said it would take "military action" against parents who walked up the road on Tuesday morning.

Gerry Kelly
Gerry Kelly: Threats taken seriously

Mr Kelly, a north Belfast assembly member, said the parents discussed the threat before the school run.

The Northern Ireland Office, local politicians and church leaders have been involved in trying to resolve the dispute.

But despite recent meetings talks, no resolution has yet been reached.

Pupils will no attend the school next week because of the mid-term break.

Protestant residents' spokesman Stuart McCartney
"It is important that we commemorate it and honour the people who lost their lives"
BBC NI's Noreen Erskine
reports from north Belfast
See also:

15 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Dispute school extra cash criticised
15 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
New move urged over school dispute
12 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Buses offer to end school protest
14 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Priest likens Holy Cross to Afghanistan
11 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Peace wall for school dispute
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