Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 18:00 UK

Arsonists in second school attack

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It was the second attack on the school in a fortnight

A primary school in north Belfast has been attacked by arsonists for the second time in a fortnight.

It is understood two petrol bombs were thrown into the canteen at St Mary Star of the Sea Primary School on Shore Road and paint was thrown over the building.

Two weeks ago, fires were started inside the Catholic school and paint and sectarian graffiti were daubed.

Principal Ciaran McGarry said it would cost £10,000 to repair the damage but the pupils were the real victims.

"The money that's going to be required to restore the school to its former state could much more beneficially be used to help the children who attend this and other schools," he said.

"Nothing has been achieved by this. Parents, community members, religious leaders, politicans have been in contact over the last number of weeks, offering their support."

Martin McDonald of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said the fire alarm went off at about 0200 BST on Wednesday.

Sadly, some people feel a school is now a viable target and that is a terrible reflection on our society
Ciaran McGarry
School principal

He said the dining room was filled with smoke when crews arrived.

"My concern would be that whenever we are attending these types of incidents, as with any arson or deliberate fires, it ties up our resources, which could be needed elsewhere," he said.

SDLP councillor Pat Convery said it was a "disgusting attack on the whole community".

"Sadly, some people feel a school is now a viable target and that is a terrible reflection on our society," he said.

It was the latest in a spate of arson attacks on schools in the greater Belfast area in recent weeks.

Much of Whitehouse Primary School on the Doagh Road, Newtownabbey, was destroyed in a fire earlier this month.

In the west of the city, a fire at a former school - La Salle Boys' School - on the Glen Road was treated as suspicious.

North Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said the attacks on schools had to end.

"Schools should in no way be targeted," he said.

"They are attacks on all of our children and on their futures. Schools are not just centres of learning for our children but they also provide, on an ever increasing basis, services and facilities for the wider community."

Police have appealed for people living near schools to be vigilant.



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