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Saturday, 24 November, 2001, 13:28 GMT
Suspension of school protest welcomed
Holy Cross pupils
Children have endured daily protests at their school for 12 weeks
Politicians and community leaders have welcomed the announcement that loyalist residents have suspended their 12-week protest at Holy Cross Girls' Primary School in north Belfast.

The decision was taken after Glenbryn residents voted in favour of a package of community safety measures in the Ardoyne area during a meeting on Friday night.

The dispute, which involved protests by the residents outside the school since the beginning of September, prompted a large security operation.

They said they were protesting because of attacks on their community, which they claimed were by the larger Catholic population of Ardoyne.


It will be marvellous to see if the children will now be able to walk up the road without anybody shouting at them

Philomena Flood

The MP Nigel Dodds welcomed the decision by the Glenbryn residents but said the decision to address their concerns was long overdue.

"I don't think there is any question of reward or victory in this," he said.

"I think that some of the issues that are now being resolved and addressed are long overdue for addressing.

"They should have been addressed years ago and one of the reasons that we are in the mess that we are in is that these issues were ignored for far too long."

Catholic parents said they were looking forward to walking their children to school on Monday, free from the intimidation of the protesters.

Father Aidan Troy:
Father Aidan Troy: "It has not been easy for anyone"

"We welcome that there will be no people on that road protesting, we really do,"said Philomena Flood whose seven-year-old daughter is a pupil at the school.

"It will be marvellous to see if the children, after five months, will now be able to walk up the road without anybody shouting at them and without anybody calling them names."

SDLP assembly member for the area Alban Maginness said the suspension will be a start to repairing the damage that has been caused in the area.

"Everyone in north Belfast is much happier today about the decision to suspend the protest," he said.

"Hopefully the protest will end completely and that this suspension will not simply be a temporary one but a permanent one and will lead to a cross community dialogue.

'Relief'

"It is so important that that dialogue commences."

Protestant community worker Mark Coulter said that dialogue between the two communities must now begin.

"It has been suspended to give the measures in place an opportunity to work and particularly to get into dialogue with the nationalist community," he said.

"The long-term solution to this is through dialogue and it has got to happen."

Speculation of a deal had mounted following talks between the residents and Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers.

On Friday, Glenbryn residents discussed a package of safety measures on offer, such as road ramps, closed circuit television and police patrols.

Chairman of the Holy Cross board of governors, Father Aidan Troy, welcomed the suspension of the protest.

Nigel Dodds
Nigel Dodds: Welcomed the decision by loyalist residents

"It's affected everybody in Ardoyne, not only here in Holy Cross but all the way up through Glenbryn.

"Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new and better life for us all."

The decision to suspend the protest was welcomed by the Secretary of State, John Reid. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern also offered his congratulations.

He said he hoped it would now be possible to bring back normality to the people of the Ardoyne - "especially the children".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Annita McVeigh
"Developments will be put to the test on Monday"
BBC NIs Noreen Erskine reports:
"The suspension of the protest has been widely welcomed by Catholic parents"
See also:

24 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Twelve depressing weeks
24 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Loyalists suspend school protest
20 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
'Helpful' meeting over Holy Cross
14 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Ministers to tackle Holy Cross dispute
09 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Protesters resume school dispute
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