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CATFIGHT RIOT LEFT 48 COPS WOUNDED; Belfast mayhem over mums' brawl.

Byline: Friction By JUSTINE SMITH

A BRAWL between two mothers sparked Belfast's worst sectarian violence in months.

The riots in Ardoyne left 48 police injured and forced the closure yesterday of troubled Holy Cross primary.

Armed loyalists destroyed 17 cars at a second Catholic school.

Violence flared when a Protestant woman clashed with a Catholic mum on the way to collect her daughter from Holy Cross on Wednesday.

A witness said: "The Protestant woman's child bumped into the Catholic woman, who shouted, 'You Orange b******.'

"The mothers started fighting and the Protestant lady was arrested. Gangs of Loyalists appeared and freed her and it all went off."

Paramilitaries brought crates of petrol bombs to the scene as up to 500 yobs from both communities rioted. The mayhem went on into yesterday morning.

Police were pelted with up to 140 petrol and acid bombs, as well as flares, fireworks, bricks and bottles.

Officers hit seven people with plastic baton rounds.

Four Catholic men were treated for minor injuries after a maniac opened fire with a shotgun.

Six cars were torched.

Each side blamed the other. Catholic parents said they had been jostled and spat on, while Protestants said Catholics pulled down a wreath to a murdered Protestant taxi driver.

Assistant chief constable Alan McQuillan said: "The trouble started spontaneously."But in this area, in both communities, the paramilitaries are there once you scratch the surface ."

It's feared there will now be a new blockade of Holy Cross, where Protestants staged a bitter 12-week protest last year.

Weeping infant schoolgirls were given police protection to get to classes.

Pupils were told to stay at home yesterday but governors said they would recommend the school should reopen today.

A fragile peace deal over Holy Cross was brokered in November but friction has continued.

Now there has been more trouble at another Catholic school half a mile away.

Police said six thugs armed with iron bars smashed 18 cars belonging to teachers at Lady of Mercy Secondary, in the mainly Loyalist Ballysillan area.

Some parents kept their children at home yesterday.

Ulster's education minister, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, visited Ardoyne and said: "This escalation has brought people to the point of despair."

McGuinness called for "real and honest dialogue" between the sides.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 11, 2002
Words:378
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