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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 September 2005, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
McAleese cancels Shankill visit
Irish President Mary McAleese
Irish President Mary McAleese was to have visited a Shankill school
Irish President Mary McAleese has abandoned plans to visit the loyalist Shankill in west Belfast because of recent rioting in the area.

A spokeswoman for the president said Thursday's visit to Edenbrooke Primary School has now been rearranged.

The president will meet school pupils and staff at a Belfast hotel instead.

President McAleese is going ahead with her courtesy call on the NI chief constable and a visit to a school in the city's Taughmonagh estate.

She is also due to visit a school and a care centre on the Ravenhill Road in Belfast.

Ms McAleese's decision to cancel her Shankill visit follows recent unrest in the area in which police, fire crews and cars have been attacked with petrol bombs and other missiles.

"There is going to be a change to the Edenbrooke visit because of the overall security situation in north Belfast," her spokesperson said.

"However, President McAleese will be meeting them during her visit."

School principal Betty Orr said a number of parents said they would not have sent their children to school had the visit gone ahead.

"They were worried that if there was a protest and the police were there, due to tensions in the area, the police could well get attacked," she said.

"Parents who want to meet the president will still be able to do so and children who will be singing for her will still do so."

It is the second time Ms McAleese has cancelled a visit to the Shankill area.

Riots in Belfast have led to the cancellation of a second visit
Riots in Belfast have led to the cancellation of a second visit

In January, a planned visit, including a trip to Edenbrooke Primary School, did not go ahead after some of her comments caused controversy.

Ms McAleese said children in Northern Ireland were taught to hate Catholics in the same way Nazis taught theirs to despise Jews.

She later said she was "deeply sorry" for the offence her remarks caused, but some unionists were not mollified.

Meanwhile, a meeting which is going ahead on Thursday with Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde at police headquarters in Belfast has sparked criticism from the DUP.

Ian Paisley Jr said Thursday's meeting, which was not raised with the Policing Board, was "highly political".

Mr Paisley said the chief constable had no operational requirement to report to Ms McAleese, who is from Belfast.

He also said the meeting was "choreographed to help the IRA at a time when their statement has fallen on deaf ears".

'Building bridges'

Mr Paisley added: "All sense of protocol has been abandoned and all to assist a visit by someone who has done her best to insult the majority of people here by likening them to Nazis."

But fellow Policing Board member, Alex Attwood of the SDLP, said it was time to move on as the president had apologised for her remarks.

"Most people know she got it wrong and then she got it right by apologising and cancelling her visit.

"I think those people in the Shankill will see it that way."

A PSNI spokesperson said they would not be responding to Mr Paisley's comments.

Inaugurated as the Irish head of state in 1997, Mary McAleese is the first president to come from Northern Ireland and is now in her second term of office.

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