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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 10:42 GMT
Footpath row 'led to riots'
Rioting on the Crumlin Road
Hundreds of people were involved in rioting
A footpath row between two women led to the new outbreak of sectarian violence in north Belfast, the police have said.

Police said 48 police officers were injured in serious rioting in the Ardoyne area of Belfast.

Up to 500 nationalists and loyalists were involved in the disturbances on the Ardoyne Road, Crumlin Road and Brompton Park areas and more than 100 petrol, acid bombs and fireworks were thrown.

Assistant chief constable Alan McQuillan said on BBC Radio Ulster that a confrontation between two women at Holy Cross Girls' Primary school on Wednesday afternoon quickly turned into a dangerous situation.

Assistant chief constable Alan McQuillan
Assistant chief constable Alan McQuillan: "Trouble started spontaneously"

He said: "Police had to intervene. They attempted to make an arrest. At that point a person was rescued by a crowd and within a very short time of time we had crowds from both sides out on the streets."

Mr McQuillan added: "The trouble started spontaneously, but he said once you scratch the surface the paramilitaries are never far away."

Nationalist and loyalist political and community representatives have each blamed the other side of the community for tensions which led to the violence.

Loyalists claimed the trouble started after nationalists had torn down a wreath placed in memory of murdered taxi driver Trevor Kell.

Nationalists denied this and said a Catholic mother was attacked on her way to collect her daughter from Holy Cross Girls' Primary School on Wednesday after a week of taunting by residents from the Glenbryn area of Ardoyne.

From Monday, when the school re-opened, parents at Holy Cross were reporting insults and abuse

Margaret McClenaghan

North Belfast Sinn Fein councillor Margaret McClenaghan said the police response to the tensions had brought the Ardoyne situation back to June 2001, when the dispute at the school led to months of loyalist protests.

She said: "From Monday, when the school re-opened, parents at Holy Cross were reporting insults and abuse."

Local DUP councillor Nelson McCausland said the situation had been "fraught for several days with a number of attacks on Protestants in the Hesketh and Glenbryn areas".

"Republicans have orchestrated much of this trouble to deflect attention away from Sinn Fein's foreign misdemeanors by provoking a Protestant reaction.

However, SDLP north Belfast SDLP councillor Martin Morgan said loyalist and unionist representatives' attempts to seek the moral high ground on north Belfast were "a joke".

"Nationalist youths were involved in serious rioting last night, but there is a context. It isn't just Holy Cross school, we are talking about months of issues in the Ardoyne area."

Father Aidan Troy:
Father Aidan Troy: "Two sides must have direct talks"

Meanwhile, church leaders in Ardoyne said the only way to calm the tensions would be for the two communities to meet in a community forum, which has been muted for some time.

Presbyterian minister Reverend Norman Hamilton said: "We need to get a local Ardoyne forum between the two communities on a standing basis to deal with the embers of daily confrontation so that it doesn't emerge into yesterday.

"In my view, that has to be led by our political leaders alongside the community and civic leaders."

Local parish priest and chairman of the Holy Cross school board of governors Aidan Troy agreed.

"Parallel talks are fine, but you until we are talking together it is very difficult to see how we are going to make progress," he said.

BBC NI's Karen Atkinson
talks to people on both sides of the community in north Belfast about the tensions which led to Wednesday
Representatives from the PUP and Sinn Fein
"We need to get both communities into dialogue"
See also:

09 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Rioting follows NI school dispute
20 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
'Helpful' meeting over Holy Cross
09 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Protesters resume school dispute
03 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Ardoyne Stories: Peace lines and division
07 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
Counting the cost against the children
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