Pupils at Cliftonville Integrated Primary School in north Belfast take taxis after bus route axed
Young pupils at an integrated primary are commuting home from school by taxi due to fears of sectarian attacks after Translink cut bus services.
The parents of up to 40 children are out of pocket after a bus service from Cliftonville Integrated Primary School in north Belfast was halted.
The children affected live in the Shankill area, many just a 10 minute walk from the school.
However, parents have said they are afraid to allow their children to walk home, given heightened sectarian tensions in the north of the city in recent months.
The school's principal, Brenda McMullen, said she was appalled by the removal of the bus service, which she fears could deter children from unionist and loyalist areas from attending the school.
"This is my 14th year in the job and the third time in 12 years a bus service from the Shankill area has been cut," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"We feel we have been treated appallingly. There was no dialogue. We feel powerless. It is essential the school is fully accessible to all members of our community. It is vital for us as a school to maintain our links with those in the Shankill community."
Ms McMullen said she was informed of the bus service cut in June by email.
She said Translink made no effort to enter into dialogue with the school or parents of the pupils affected.
A father of a pupil at the school, who runs a local taxi firm, has laid on vehicles for the children.
North Belfast community worker and PUP member Winston Irvine said: "We're relieved that parents working along with the principal, board of governors and the community have been able to come up with a short-term solution, but it is incumbent on Translink and other relevant authorities to step up to the plate and find a viable and long-term solution to the problem.
"As long-time advocates of integrated education, our concern is that the removal of the transport could deter and prove an obstructive barrier to parents who are considering sending their kids to the school, which obviously could prove detrimental."
A spokeswoman for Translink defended the company's move.
"Unfortunately, due to consistently low passenger numbers this particular service was unsustainable," she said. "We have engaged directly with the school, parents, education and library board along with local representatives to discuss alterative transport.
"We will be happy to further discuss this matter directly with school representatives."
Cliftonville Primary became an integrated school in 2008 and currently has 270 pupils.
"We feel we have been treated appallingly. There was no dialogue. We feel powerless.
"It is essential the school is fully accessible to all members of our community. It is vital for us as a school to maintain our links with those in the Shankill community."
Principal Brenda McMullen