The chairman of the board of governors of Holy Cross School in Belfast has said that the psychological and emotional damage that is being inflicted on children attending the school might never by remedied. Father Aidan Troy was speaking as the protest entered its second month with still no sign of a resolution.
In separate incident, a Protestant school in North Belfast had 67 windows broken in an attack during the weekend.
Fr Troy, who is Parish Priest in Ardoyne, called again for an end to the protests by Loyalist residents from the Glenbryn area against Catholic schoolchildren and their parents as they travel to and from the school. The demonstrations, which have sometimes been noisy and included blast bomb attacks on security forces, have been continuing for the past month.
Fr Troy said that, as October began, he hoped young children would no longer be subjected to daily fear and damage. He said that, while adults failed to agree on a solution, children could not be held hostage. Now was the time for those with political power and responsibility to combine and stop small girls being damaged, he said.
Fr Troy said that teachers were also suffering enormous pain and had become victims in a dispute not of their own making and not within their power to resolve. He said that a number of parents had already taken their children from the school as they simply could not take any more and that this was understandable in view of the weeks of physical and verbal abuse to which they had been exposed.
He said that political leaders needed to address vigorously and urgently the immorality of the situation facing the pupils. While he welcomed the statements of those politicians who had publicly recognised the awfulness of the situation, he said that the silence of others must be questioned and challenged.
Fr Troy said that basic safety and freedom from fear no longer existed for the young girls attending the school and this was unacceptable. An emergency existed and swift and corrective action must be taken, he added. The issue they had to address was that 220 pupils were being daily subjected to fear and intimidation and this was immoral and an appalling danger.
Meanwhile, police in Belfast maintained a heavy presence on the streets overnight. This followed a number of disturbances there yesterday afternoon. Rival groups threw stones and other missiles in the Limestone Road and Newington areas. Five police officers were injured. There were no reports of overnight incidents.