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29 November 2001 Edition

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Holy Cross blockade suspended

BY LAURA FRIEL


This week's suspension of the Glenbryn blockade of Holy Cross Primary School left parents and pupils hopeful that the appalling scenes of loyalist hatred and violence against Catholic children and their parents walking to and from school are a thing of the past.

For the first time in four months, Holy Cross pupils, some as young as four years of age, returned to their classes without facing the ordeal of loyalist protestors, hurling abuse and missiles as they passed the short distance along Ardoyne Road to school.

The relative calm was marred by the discovery of a pipe bomb just a few hundred yards from Holy Cross School that had been thrown into the garden of a house in Alliance Avenue. The resident, a Catholic pensioner was evacuated while the device was defused.

A handful of Glenbryn residents gathered on the street and one Catholic mother was pushed in a minor scuffle as she walked her child to school on Monday morning. A Crown force presence remained but had been scaled down in the light of the blockade's suspension.

Brendan Mailey from the Right to Education group welcomed the suspension. "It takes the pressure off the children and we hope it will be a permanent suspension," he said.

"This kind of thing can never happen to school children anywhere, ever again," said Brendan, "we would like assurances that it will never happen again."

"Seeing the children going up to school in their own time this morning was great," said Fr. Troy. After 12 weeks there is bound to be some apprehension, said the local priest. It had been very important that the walk to school had taken place without abuse, he said.

Meanwhile, Glenbryn spokesperson Jim Potts warned that the blockade might be reinstated. "If the government does not fulfil its obligations we will go back to the protest," said Potts.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams welcomed the suspension but expressed concern at the "conditionality of the residents' statement". "Everyone must be clear that a resumption of this activity will be totally unacceptable."

Meanwhile, a woman on crossing patrol duty outside Holy Cross School became the focus of controversy after it was revealed that she had taken part in the loyalist blockade. A number of parents objected and the issue is currently before the Belfast Education and Library Board.

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