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Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 14:23 GMT
School talks follow riots
Cars were burned out in the riots
Cars were burned out in the riots
Governors and parents from the Catholic Holy Cross Girls' primary school in north Belfast are discussing the sectarian violence which again flared outside their school.

The governors met with teachers to discuss the situation on Thursday morning, after the school was closed for the day because of fears for the safety of the pupils.

The police said 48 officers were injured and four civilians received wounds from gunshot pellets during the rioting on Wednesday night. Six vehicles were hijacked and set alight.

Father Aidan Troy: No decision yet on when to open school
Father Aidan Troy: No decision yet on when to open school

The trouble flared in the Ardoyne Road, Crumlin Road and Brompton Park areas.

Staff at Holy Cross met the school governors as the clear-up operation continued. The governors are to meet parents later.

Father Aidan Troy, chairman of the board of governors, said that the meetings were focussing on when to re-open the school.

He said he hoped Holy Cross could open on Friday but that the "extremely difficult" decision would have to be made after all the meetings were concluded "on the basis of the safety of the children and their parents going up and down to school".

Click here for a map of where the rioting took place

Father Troy said he feared any decision to postpone opening the school "for any considerable length of time could put the whole future of the school in jeopardy".

Meanwhile, an armed gang has attacked cars in the car park of a Catholic school in nearby Ballysillan.

Up to 20 cars were damaged in the attack by six men at Our Lady of Mercy Girls' Secondary School on Thursday morning.

There is no place for this level of violence, for any level of violence

John Reid
NI Secretary

Assistant chief constable Alan McQuillan said the trouble on Wednesday started after a confrontation between two women outside Holy Cross school.

As the police tried to arrest someone, he said, the situation soon turned ugly and officers had to draw their weapons to keep the loyalist and nationalist crowds back.

He said the disturbances were "sustained and heavily orchestrated" and that although the trouble was spontaneous, when you scratched the surface, the paramilitaries were never far away.

Men with mobile phones were reportedly directing the violence, and at 0330 GMT police discovered a stockpile of petrol bombs and a container of petrol in the Brompton Park area.

More than 136 petrol bombs, acid bombs and bricks were thrown as pitched battles took place between hundreds of youths and the police.

Police said they had been subjected to prolonged and orchestrated attacks with one of the most intensive confrontations coming in the Crumlin Road area.

At the peak of the rioting there were about 500 people on the streets.

Holy Cross School
Protests by loyalist residents at Holy Cross school in Ardoyne ended in December

Six vehicles were hijacked and burned, and police fired eight baton rounds during the violence. Three people were arrested. One man appeared in court on Thursday.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said he "utterly condemned" the violence and joined other political leaders in appeals for calm.

Republicans and loyalists blamed each other for the start of the rioting.

Protestants said Catholics had torn down a wreath placed in memory of a murdered taxi driver.

Catholics said parents and pupils were attacked on their way to collect their children from Holy Cross.

Northern Ireland First minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan appealed for calm.

In a joint statement they said: "We were deeply disturbed to see the renewed scenes of violence in north Belfast today after the progress which has been made in recent weeks."

The MP for the area, Nigel Dodds, also called on people in north Belfast to stay calm.

Twelve weeks of protests by loyalist residents at Holy Cross school ended in December after local community representatives and politicians held a series of meetings to try to calm the tensions.

Residents said they were protesting about attacks on their community by republicans.

Back to the story
The BBC's Denis Murray
"More than 100 petrol bombs were thrown"
Representatives from the PUP and Sinn Fein
"We need to get both communities into dialogue"
Nigel Dodds, MP for North Belfast
"I appeal for people to remain calm and not get involved in street violence"
Kate Lagan has two children at the school
"There is a lot of fear"

NI riots
Are children being used as political pawns?
See also:

10 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Cars attacked at Catholic school
10 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Footpath row 'led to riots'
10 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
North Belfast's streets of hatred
09 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Rioting follows NI school dispute
10 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Head to Head: Riots in Ardoyne Road
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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