Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

No 'Holy Cross II' vows DUP following loyalist protest outside school

Union flags outside the catholic Holy Cross Primary School in north Belfast
Union flags outside the catholic Holy Cross Primary School in north Belfast.

A loyalist stand-off outside the gates of Holy Cross Primary School in north Belfast was sparked by a "misunderstanding" circulating on social networking sites, it was claimed last night.

The school's principal Maura McNally insisted she was not concerned by recent developments which saw loyalists erect Union flags and paint the kerbstones red, white and blue outside the Catholic school, where they also staged a protest on Thursday evening.

Mrs McNally said she wanted to focus on "what goes on inside the school gates, not outside".

Loyalist community workers and politicians said that the recent incidents were not leading up to a "Holy Cross II" – referring to the 2001 loyalist pickets outside the school that made headlines across the world.

A group of loyalists gathered outside the school gates on Thursday evening after incorrect information began to circulate on Facebook that the red, white and blue paint on the kerbstones outside the school was going to be removed by Roads Service officials.

"This was a Facebook gathering initiated on misunderstanding and wrong information. This is an area affected by the parades dispute, it is a flashpoint area, but we are not going to be seeing a Holy Cross II," said DUP councillor for the area Lee Reynolds.

"Myself and other councillors and community workers spoke to the gathering on Thursday night and we are having another meeting with them to discuss issues of concern. I believe that any potential for hostilities and tensions to rise has been nipped in the bud," Mr Reynolds added.

Loyalist youths began to paint the kerbstones in the area on Monday night, including outside the gates of Holy Cross. Following discussions with the PSNI, community workers attempted to persuade the youths to remove the paint from the kerbs outside the school, but to no avail.

Despite complaints from some republicans in the area, Mrs Mc Nally said that parents with pupils at the school have not raised any issues of concern with her.

"The only reason for concern is the way this is being reported. What happened outside the school on Thursday was down to a misunderstanding and a crowd gathered.

"I was the only person in the school at the time and I was not under threat. Nobody was shouting or jeering as I left the school and I did not feel threatened," said the principal.

"I have no concerns about any deterioration in relations. Parents have not raised any concerns with me. My job is to look after what goes on inside the school. Others can look after what happens outside."

Background

Holy Cross Girls' Primary School in north Belfast made headlines around the world in 2001 when loyalist protesters began picketing the school amid claims that nationalists had attacked their homes and that a parent of a schoolgirl had attacked a man erecting a loyalist flag opposite the building.

Riot police and Catholic clergy had to escort schoolgirls and their parents through a torrent of abuse on their journey to and from school in a dispute that ran for months.

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