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Renewed violence near Catholic school. (Ireland).

Belfast--The surface calm in place since late November 2001 in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast was disrupted in early January by a new flare-up of street violence between Catholics and Protestants.

Last fall Holy Cross primary school for girls became a symbol of the hostile anti-Catholic attitudes which still disfigure community life in Northern Ireland. The school is situated in a Protestant enclave bordering on a larger Catholic area.

On September 5,2001, a homemade bomb thrown by pro-British loyalists exploded near the school, injuring a policeman and causing terror among the pupils and their parents. As the violence escalated, TV viewers worldwide were shown videos of frightened girls in neat school uniforms, some as young as 5 years old, being escorted to classes by their parents through police and security forces.

After 12 weeks of disruption, the troubles seemed to be resolved by November 25 when representatives of the Protestant residents accepted proposals from First Minister David Trimble and his Deputy, Mark Durkan. Among the measures accepted were better traffic control in the school area and increased police patrols.

However, the comment of Fr. Aidan Troy, chairman of the school's board of governors, "I think we're near an end to the nightmare" proved to be premature. Riots broke out again when the school opened in January after the Christmas holidays. Each side has blamed the other for the renewed hostilities. According to the Toronto Sun (Jan. 10), the trouble began when a memorial wreath for a murdered Protestant was removed from a lamppost. Eighty-two people, including police officers, got hurt.

Holy Cross students, after a day's closure, returned to their classes on January 11. However, violence then escalated in other parts of the city. On January 12, a Catholic postal worker, Daniel McColgan, was shot and killed as he arrived at work. Responsibility for the crime has been claimed variously by the Red Hand Defenders and the Ulster Freedom Fighters, both associated with illegal paramilitary Loyalist groups. They declared postal workers and teachers targets for attacks.

School-related violence has also spread. Following the stoning of school buses from the Protestant Model Boys' school on January 9, Loyalists armed with iron bars wrecked teachers' cars and terrified pupils at Our Lady of Mercy High School. A high-profile security operation has now been initiated around dozens of schools after further threats to Catholic staff members.

In the midst of the chaos, Catholic clergy continue in their ministry. Their negotiating skills have often helped defuse dangerous situations. As well as attending to the concerns of their own flock, they regard it as important to also listen to the Protestant residents in their areas and find out where they are coming from.

(Files from Zenit and Tor. Sun).
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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