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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 09:21 GMT
School re-opens despite fresh riots
Police vans
Petrol bombs were hurled at police
Holy Cross Girls' primary school has reopened despite a second night of sectarian violence in north Belfast.

Catholic parents and children made their way to school through the Protestant Glenbryn area amid tight security.

There was no sign of a resumption of the protest by loyalist residents.

Serious rioting on Thursday night left 31 police officers and three soldiers injured.

Hundreds of nationalist and loyalist youths confronted security forces, launching waves of attacks with petrol bombs, fireworks, bottles and blast bombs.

riot scene
Cars were set alight in the street by rioters

The school, where sectarian protests flared last September, closed on Wednesday after trouble erupted in the area, prompting violent riots.

Parents of pupils at the school welcomed the governors' decision on Thursday, saying their children must continue their education.

Loyalists in the area said there would be no repeat of last summer's protests.

Nationalist and loyalist communities have blamed each other for the two nights of rioting, but youths from both sides were out in force.

Meanwhile, rioters from both sides clashed in the Whitewell area of north Belfast as police were dealing with the trouble in Ardoyne.

Schools targeted

During pitched battles in Ardoyne on Thursday night, a soldier was hit in the face by an acid bomb.

Police fired seven plastic bullets at the crowds, and 11 arrests are believed to have been made.

Two blast bombs exploded among police as they confronted the crowds in the Ardoyne area.

We are going to resist the pressure we are coming under to have any sort of protest, and we are calling on people to remain calm

Community worker Mark Coulter
Army bomb disposal experts made safe three devices which failed to explode when they were thrown at police lines by nationalists.

Nearby, about 60 loyalists confronted troops at Twaddell Avenue where the soldier was injured by an acid bomb.

Schools were also targets of aggression - earlier on Thursday a group of men entered a Catholic secondary school and smashed 17 vehicles in the car park as pupils looked on.

Protestant pupils at another school were driven home in armoured police vehicles.

The violence follows riots on Wednesday in the Ardoyne Road, Crumlin Road and Brompton Park areas which left 48 officers injured and four civilians suffering wounds from gunshot pellets.

An argument between two women is believed to have been the spark that triggered the rioting.

Holy Cross, September 2001
Last year police had to escort parents and pupils to Holy Cross school
First Minister David Trimble described the scenes in north Belfast as depressing.

He said the trouble was obstructing efforts to set up a community forum aimed at improving the situation on the ground.

Measures would be discussed with community activists on Friday, he said.

"We're prepared to put resources into mediation if mediation is going to be the way in which we get that forum into existence," he said.

But the extent of the increased tension was voiced by residents of Upper Ardoyne who accused nationalists of trying to provoke them into resuming their protest at Holy Cross School.

Parents' choice

Community worker Mark Coulter, who attended a meeting of the Glenbryn residents committee and political representatives on Thursday, called on police to step up security.

"People are very, very clear that they are not going to be used as political pawns by anyone," he said.

The chairman of the board of governors at Holy Cross, Father Aidan Troy, said the decision to re-open the school on Friday had been taken on Thursday night in the "interests of staff and pupils".

"The board has come to the conclusion, hopefully rightly, that the sooner we get the children back into a settled situation the better," he said.

"It could even have a calming effect on the whole situation here."

He said it was up to parents to decide if they wanted to send their children to school.

The BBC's John Thorne
"Police promise a secuity presence"
Father Aidan Troy
Chairman of the Holy Cross Board of Govenors
Councillor Margaret McClanaghan and
Protestant community worker Mark Coulter

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

10 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
School talks follow riots
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
10 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Q&A: Violence in north Belfast
09 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Rioting follows NI school dispute
10 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Head to Head: Riots in Ardoyne Road
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