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Friday, 9 November, 2001, 20:50 GMT
Protesters resume school dispute
There were angry exchanges at the protest on Friday afternoon
There were angry exchanges at the protest on Friday afternoon
A protest at a Catholic school in north Belfast resumed on Friday with verbal exchanges between parents and loyalist protesters.

The protesters from the Glenbryn area of Ardoyne, where Holy Cross Girls' Primary School is situated, have been protesting since September against alleged attacks by the larger Catholic community in the area.

The protest was suspended on Friday morning while 15 primary seven pupils sat the 11 plus exam, and there had been a decision to call off the protest for the rest of the day.

However, a group of protesters lined the Ardoyne Road and exchanged insults with nationalist parents as they came to collect their children from the school later in the day.


I believe that the people of Glenbryn should be given the proper political leadership

Martin McGuinness

The protesters are angry that parents walked up the Ardoyne Road to the school, instead of using an alternative route - going in the back entrance of the school, along the Crumlin Road.

Earlier, Jim Potts, of the Concerned Residents of Upper Ardoyne group, said they had been told the parents would use the Crumlin Road on Friday.

"They didn't wish to use the Ardoyne Road because we had made a gesture," he said.

"Now they have gone and told lies again and came up the Ardoyne Road. There were incidents where they got into the face of young Protestant mothers, and their children and said abusive things, and basically laughed in their faces."

Anne Tanney: Appealed for protests to end
Anne Tanney: Appealed for protests to end

The chairman of the Holy Cross Board of Governors, Father Aidan Troy, said the decision to suspend the protest during the 11-plus was "wise" under the circumstances.

"This was solely for students doing this exam, there was no ulterior motive than to make sure it was as stress-free a day as possible," he said.

School principal Anne Tanney again appealed for the loyalist protest to be stopped, given the "difference Friday's suspension had made to the school and pupils sitting the 11-plus".

The Assistant Chief Constable for Belfast, Alan McQuillan, welcomed the decision to suspend the protest saying it was in the interests of all concerned, particularly the children.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Education Minister Martin McGuinness said his door was "always open" to the people of Glenbryn.

"I believe that the people of Glenbryn should be given the proper political leadership and should know very clearly that there are people like me, from within the republican/nationalist tradition who want to meet with them," he said.

The protests at Holy Cross have been held daily since the beginning of term in September.

This week the protesters agreed with the police to move back slightly so that the police could dispense with wearing riot gear while escorting the pupils to school.

Martin McGuinness:
Martin McGuinness: "My door is open to Glenbryn residents"

The parents of Holy Cross pupils are to meet at the weekend to further discuss the situation.

The developments came as more than 17,000 pupils sit the 11-plus in Northern Ireland.

The 11-plus transfer test system has been heavily criticised and a government appointed body has recommended replacing the system.

However, the exam is expected to be used as the secondary level selection procedure next year.

The public is currently being invited to comment on the Burns Report on Northern Ireland's secondary level selection system as part of a consultation process.

The report proposes that there should be no more selection by grammar schools on academic grounds.

However, it is expected to be 2003 before any substitute system is put in place and it could take eight to 10 years to be fully introduced.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Glenbryn residents spokesperson Stuart McCartney:
"It shows that there is a sensitivity and an understanding that there are both sides traumatised in this dispute"
BBC NI's Rosie Billingham
reports from Holy Cross Girls' Primary School
See also:

08 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Parents 'may not use school escort'
06 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Complaints over Holy Cross policing
26 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Research blow to 11-plus
05 Nov 99 | Education
Questions over 11-plus exams
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