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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Peaceful start to school term
The daily protests at the school lasted for 12 weeks
The daily protests at the school lasted for 12 weeks
Pupils at a north Belfast school which was the target of a protest by loyalists have had a peaceful beginning to the new term.

A three-month protest last year by loyalist residents at the Ardoyne interface saw pupils of Holy Cross Girls' Primary School being escorted to and from the school by the security forces on a daily basis.

On Monday morning, loyalist protesters stayed away and security in the area was also scaled down.

Some parents who walked their children up the Ardoyne Road to the school said they were relieved the school run had passed without incident.

Pupils were escorted to school last year
Pupils were escorted to school last year

After leaving her six-year-old daughter Natasha at the school gates Geraldine Murphy said: "I was very nervous as usual because I didn't know what to expect.

"It's quiet but very tense, I just hope it stays like this."

Last year's confrontation has resulted in a drop in enrolment figures at Holy Cross for the beginning of the new school term.

But Alban Mcguinness, the SDLP Assembly member for North Belfast, welcomed the peaceful start.

He said: "It's a sunny day and I think that the sunshine reflects the change in attitude of the people here."

Last week, board of governors chairman Father Aidan Troy said he feared for children as they prepared for the new school term at the flashpoint interface.

He said the number of new enrolments at the school had fallen by a third.

Despite an end to the protest last November, which came after 12 weeks, Father Troy said tension in the area was still high.

He added the future of the school depended on plans by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister to build another peace wall along part of the Ardoyne Road.

'Chance of survival'

Residents in the largely Protestant Glenbryn area have demanded the measure to prevent attacks on their homes.

However, Ardoyne residents are opposed to the wall as it would realign the route walked by children and parents to the school.

Father Troy said the Holy Cross pupils had been failed by politicians both in the Northern Ireland Executive and the British Government.

Father Aidan Troy:
Father Aidan Troy: New enrolments have fallen

Last year's dispute centred on alleged attacks on Glenbryn homes by the larger nationalist community in Ardoyne.

It was eventually resolved with a package, backed by the first and deputy first ministers, of enhanced security and social measures for the area.

However, a delay in implementing the proposals, in particular the realignment of the Ardoyne road to keep the communities apart, has led to tension in recent months.

Loyalist residents said they were considering their position, but said resuming the protest at the school was not an option.



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See also:

27 Aug 02 | N Ireland
23 Aug 02 | N Ireland
12 Jun 02 | N Ireland
26 Nov 01 | N Ireland
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