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8 November 2001 Edition

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Holy Cross parent takes legal action

A parent representing the Right to Education Group is taking legal action against the RUC/PSNI and the Secretary of State in the High Court. The unnamed parent's affidavit accuses the RUC of failing to identify arrest or prosecute those protestors they say are breaking the law and that this inaction has allowed the violence against the children to continue.

Catholic parents bringing their children to the Holy Cross school on the Ardoyne Road on Tuesday 6 November were forced off the footpath by the RUC/PSNI.

The incident came just 24 hours after an agreement was reached with loyalist residents of Upper Ardoyne that saw the RUC/PSNI escort the parents and pupils to the school wearing only so-called soft uniforms rather than riot gear.

Father Aidan Troy, chair of the Holy Cross Board of Governors, described the RUC action as "heavy handed".

On Tuesday morning, parents attempted to walk the last stretch of the Ardoyne Road, that leads up to the school gates, on the footpath. This is a part of the road free from loyalist protesters, yet RUC officers blocked their way and physically forced some of the parents and pupils onto the road.

"Anybody pushed off the road is going to feel intimidated. Some of the children were in tears. People feel as if they are being criminalised," said Fr Troy.

The agreement between loyalist protesters and the RUC/PSNI on how the protest was to be policed was met with scepticism by Holy Cross parents, given that the numerous death threats issued by loyalist death squads are still in place.

Representatives of the Right to Education Group said that if the loyalist protesters and RUC can reach agreement to keep the protest low key, then parents should be allowed to walk their children to school in their own time and without the convoy system employed until now by the RUC/PSNI.


Sinn Féin councillor attacked after Holy Cross debate

Sinn Féin's Philip McGuigan, who sits on Ballymoney Council, found himself under threat from loyalists after a council meeting on Monday evening.

The lone Sinn Féin man proposed a motion calling for the right to the children of Holy Cross to be educated free from violence and intimidation. However, in the course of the debate unionist councillors proposed an amendment that linked the children's right to education to the rights of Orangemen to parade through the nationalist village of Dunloy, where McGuigan lives.

McGuigan attempted to withdraw his motion, rather than have it distorted by the amendment, but was unable to do so. During the debate, a group of loyalist, heavies sat in the public gallery. McGuigan believes these were tipped off by one of the unionist councillors and that they attended the meeting to intimidate him.

During what he described as, "a heated debate", McGuigan said that some of the unionists waved photos of children and RUC members who had died in the course of the last 30 years.

After the meeting, as McGuigan waited for a lift, a 20-strong gang of loyalists, including those who were in the public gallery, waited across the road from the council building. "They were waiting for me to go out," he told An Phoblacht.

At one pint the Sinn Féin man looked out to see if his lift had arrived and the loyalists fired fireworks, including rockets, at him.

A security guard phoned the RUC but before they arrived the loyalists moved on.


Holy Cross motion rejected in Dublin


Sinn Féin councillor Christy Burke has reacted angrily to Dublin Corporation's rejection of a motion in support of the Holy Cross children and parents on Monday night.

The Sinn Féin emergency motion asking that Dublin's Lord Mayor, political leaders from each party and government representatives meet with the Right to Education Group and accompany parents and children on their journey to the school, had been tabled by the four Dublin Sinn Féin councillors, supported by the Labour Party and independents. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael combined to refuse the motion a hearing.

Fianna Fáil's group leader on the Corporation, Pat Carey, told An Phoblacht that the motion was "not rejected", but that it and other emergency motions had not been presented in time for inclusion on the meeting's agenda.

Carey did say that he personally would be willing to participate in a delegation to the Holy Cross School, and he pointed to the role that has been played by members of his own party - Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Dublin Foreign Minister Brian Cowen - in attempting to resolve the issue.

Councillor Burke, however, attributed the rejection of the motion to "playing local politics with children's lives". Burke said it was hypocritical that Fine Gael's Mary Bannotti, whom he commended, had visited Ardoyne on the same day, and Bertie Ahern had branded the Glenbryn protest criminal "while members of their own parties are behaving in such a way".


An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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