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Monday, 11 March, 2002, 17:39 GMT
Loyalists 'to end role in school disputes'
Loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland have said they will not become involved in any future school disputes.

An umbrella body calling itself the Loyalist Commission has issued a statement distancing itself from threats to schools and teachers.

The group includes representatives from the Ulster Defence Association, Ulster Volunteer Force and Red Hand Commando, all illegal paramilitary groups.

The statement, released on Monday, makes no mention of the recent dispute outside the Catholic Holy Cross school in north Belfast, but makes clear the paramilitaries' newly-agreed ''guidelines'' towards schools.

The Holy Cross Girls' Primary School in Ardoyne has been at the centre of violent protests.


Any child or parent threatening a member of staff under the guise of a loyalist paramilitary organisation does so without any substance

Loyalist Commission

Protestant residents from the Glenbryn estate held protests as children made their way to school last year. They said it was response to attacks on their community.

The loyalist demonstration was called off late last year after several months of protests, which had resumed in September after the summer break.

The loyalist statement said: "The commission has agreed the following: no paramilitary organisation will become involved in any school dispute, either between children or with teaching staff.

"Any child or parent threatening a member of staff under the guise of a loyalist paramilitary organisation does so without any substance."

The statement added: "There should be a zero toleration level with regard to vandalism, anti-social behaviour and substance abuse in respect of schools."

Fred Cobain: Welcomed statement
Fred Cobain: Welcomed statement

It also said schools must be ideologically, paramilitary and party political neutral environments.

The Ulster Defence Association was blamed for violence surrounding the Holy Cross dispute, including a blast bomb attack as parents walked their children to the school.

The commission presented what it called "the new Schools Charter" to trade union chiefs on Monday.

North Belfast assembly member Fred Cobain described the loyalist paramilitaries' pledge as "a significant step forward".

Mr Cobain, an Ulster Unionist who had talks with UDA leaders last October, said the loyalist paramilitaries were showing a "willingness to make progress".

Secretary of State John Reid last week met with representatives of the Loyalist Commission.

The representatives of the commission he met were clergymen, who are on the body.

The Loyalist Commission is a new group set up to give political analysis to the paramilitary groups. It followed the dissolution of the Ulster Democratic Party, which was linked to the UDA.

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC NI's Mark Simpson:
"The statement makes no mention of the Holy Cross dispute"

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See also:

05 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Reid meets loyalist representatives
25 Feb 02 | Northern Ireland
Numbers drop at protest school
14 Jan 02 | Northern Ireland
Minister condemns school threats
12 Oct 01 | Northern Ireland
Reid acted on 'ceasefire farce'
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