Parents of children at a Catholic girls primary school in Belfast warned by a loyalist paramilitary group to stay away from the area.

Children as young as four are met by angry protests on their way to school at the Holy Cross Primary School in Ardoyne in north Belfast.

It was a terrifying ordeal for these children.

Security forces made a path for the children and their parents to pass through the Protestant Glenbryn area. Around two hundred protesters shouted abuse and some hurled bottles with one of the parents being injured.

It was a display of sectarianism and hatred which the principal and board of governors hoped they would have been spared.

Father Aidan Troy says that in thirty years, he has never heard such "raw, naked vitriol".

Many parents took their children back home as they were so distressed. Parent John Mailey describes the situation as desperate.

Earlier, security forces clashed with loyalist protesters as they gathered near the gates of the Catholic school. Unionist politicians met with the RUC Chief Constable to complain about what they described as heavy handed tactics used by the police. DUP MP Nigel Woods is critical of the security forces and says they are being unhelpful in finding a way forward.

The RUC also attempted to push a nationalist crowd away from the area but calm was restored by the intervention of Gerry Kelly and other senior Sinn Féin figures.

After school, the one hundred or so children who had remained at school left the school in taxis and cars through an alternative entrance at the back of the building.

The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by the UDA and the LDF, have warned the Holy Cross parents to keep their children away from the Ardoyne Road area. The loyalist paramilitary group also threatened members of the RUC.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 3 September 2001. The reporter is Michael Fisher.