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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Legal action over school policing
Security forces escorted the children to school every day
Security forces escorted the children to school every day

Sectarian attacks and abuse directed at little girls during a dispute at a north Belfast primary school have been compared to the treatment of American blacks in Alabama in the 1960s.

The comparison was made by a governor at Holy Cross Primary School in Ardoyne at the opening of a judicial review in the High Court in Belfast on Wednesday.

The mother of a child at the school is challenging the alleged failure of the secretary of state and the chief constable to provide effective protection to parents and children between June and November 2001.

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

The dispute centred on alleged attacks on Glenbryn homes by the larger nationalist community in Ardoyne.

It ended after local Protestant residents were promised social improvements and new security measures.

The woman bringing the legal action is being referred to as "E" because she fears her life would be in danger if her name was revealed.

'Pitiful art work'

The woman's lawyer, Seamus Treacy, QC, said the authorities had failed to prevent unlawful and violent protests orchestrated by loyalist paramilitaries.

"This went on not for one day or one week but over a period of months," said Mr Treacy.

"The most basic human rights of the children were trampled upon with devastating and long-lasting consequences.

"The evidence is overwhelming that the authorities failed in their duty to secure fundamental rights to the parents and their children."

Mr Treacy said this was borne out in affidavits from impeccable sources including headmasters and headmistresses, priests, school governors, human rights commissioners, doctors and parents "even in the pitiful art work of the children themselves".

The lawyer referred to an affidavit sworn by Terry Lavery, headmaster of Holy Cross Boys school, who said he he worked in five schools in Belfast and had witnessed many disturbances, including pupils being killed.

But he said he had never experienced anything like the happenings at Holy Cross.

"It was more akin to the treatment of American blacks in Alabama in the sixties," the affidavit said.

Mr Treacy said: "Even today the authorities still persist in refusing to acknowledge their breach of duty."

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