18 September 1997 Edition

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Children hurt in spate of sectarian attacks

By Laura Friel

Over a dozen children have been injured in a series of sectarian attacks on Catholic school pupils in Belfast and Lisburn last week. In eleven separate incidents, children returning to school after the summer holidays were forced to flee from stone throwing mobs. Children were injured as school buses were ambushed and pupils attacked as they walked home.

Eighteen schoolgirls from Our Lady of Mercy School were injured on Friday 12 September when their bus was stoned in the Ballysillan area of North Belfast. In a premeditated assault, a loyalist mob gathered at the junction of Bilston and Ballysillan Road as children from the nationalist New Lodge were due to journey home. Shattered glass from six windows rained down on schoolgirl passengers as the vehicle was bombarded with bricks. Pupils were cut and bruised, many requiring hospital treatment. ``It was really scary, the windows just came in all around us,'' said Claire, ``I'm really nervous about travelling to school now.''

Schoolgirls travelling to ``Our Lady'' on public transport were also attacked. Pupils, travelling on the 39 Silverstream service, were tripped and pushed by other passengers as they got off the bus at the school gates. On the same day, a further three school buses carrying children from Catholic schools were attacked near the Crumlin Road. In another incident a boy was injured when he was hit by a bolt during an attack on a bus along the Ormeau Road.

Three schoolgirls walking home from Our Lady of Mercy secondary school on Thursday were also targeted for sectarian attack by four youths. Fifteen-year-old Rosemary McAuley was dragged by the hair, punched in the face and chased. Her jewellery was also stolen. As a loyalist mob began to gather, teachers, supervising pupils onto a school bus, were driven back into the school building. ``They started shouting and running towards us,'' said Marie, ``the teachers told us all to run back into school.'' The RUC arrived and removed one of the youths involved in the initial incident. ``The RUC were not interested in listening to us,'' said Rosemary, ``I was later told that I would be charged with assaulting one of the youths who attacked me.''

On two consecutive days school buses returning to Twinbrook and Poleglass from St. Patrick's Catholic secondary school in Lisburn were attacked by a teenage mob from the loyalist Milltown area. Fourteen-year-old Mario McPeake from Glengoland was seriously injured on Thursday 11 September when a brick smashed through a window of the school bus in which he was travelling home. `` It happened just down the hill beside the school,.'' said Michael. `` A lot of the kids were screaming. Mario was covered in blood.'' The driver asked the children to leave the bus and walk home so he could take the injured boy straight to hospital. Mario required nine stitches to close the gash in his forehead. He remained in hospital overnight.

As sectarian attacks by loyalists on Catholic school buses continued for a second week, school pupils from North Belfast's Christian Brothers' Secondary School, were stoned as their bus travelled the Whitewell Road to school on Monday morning. A gang of youths hurled bricks and stones as the bus passed the loyalist White City estate. Two windows were shattered and the children showered with glass. ``All the children were very shocked and upset,'' said Angela, ``some were crying and one vomited.'' Five children required immediate hospital attention for cuts and bruises. One child sustained a head injury after being hit by a stone.


The identities of pupils interviewed by An Phoblacht have been protected at the request of their parents.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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