Holy Cross minibus attacked; Catholic workers intimidated
Parents and pupils of the Catholic Holy Cross Primary School, which
became the focus of a vicious sectarian campaign of intimidation two
years ago, are hoping that an attack on the school minibus does not
herald another upsurge of loyalist violence against the school.
The attack happened on the afternoon of Monday June 2. The minibus was
travelling towards Holy Cross School to collect children at the end of
the school day when it was stoned by a gang of hooded loyalist youths
on the Ardoyne Road.
Marian Johnston was travelling in the minibus on her way to collect her
6-year-old daughter Caitlin from Holy Cross when the attack took place.
No children were travelling on the bus at the time.
"I waved down the minibus on its way to collect the children and
the driver to let me in," said Marian, "the next thing the windows
in around us. The driver put his foot down and we sped off. Two windows
in the bus were smashed and there was glass all around us."
In 2001 loyalist residents in Glenbryn had blockaded the route to Holy
Cross and subjected pupils, many as young as four and five years of
age, and their parents to a barrage of violence and sectarian abuse.
Loyalists continued to target the school on a daily basis well into
An initial 'complaint' by loyalists used to justify their actions was
that residents could no longer tolerate Holy Cross pupils and parents
walking past their homes to the school, with their 'Celtic tops and
rebel music'. One Glenbryn grandmother put it more succinctly, "why
should there be Fenian schools in a Protestant area?"
Loyalist blockaders had demanded that Holy Cross children should travel
to school by a non-existent, 'alternative' route' or be bussed past
their front doors. Last week's stoning of the Holy Cross bus adds
weight to the contention that the 'grievances' paraded by Glenbryn
residents during their Holy Cross blockade were little more than
excuses for shameless anti Catholic sectarianism and anti Irish racism.
Meanwhile Catholic workers, contracted by the Housing Executive to
refurbish around a hundred houses in the loyalist Glenbryn estate were
forced to leave their jobs after death threats were issued by the UDA.
The seven men told the media that a car carrying two UDA men pulled up
at the site last Monday and told them they had five minutes to get out
of the area.
"We were working on the site as normal when a car pulled up with
guys in it. They told us we had five minutes to get off the site. There
was a baseball bat and a sawn off shotgun lying in the back of the car.
They drove off and we got into a van and left," said one worker.
According to a local newspaper, the same car was later seen carrying a
well-known loyalist drug dealer based in Newtownards. The dealer was
spotted driving down Alliance Avenue before returning to the site to
issue another threat.
One of the loyalists confronted another worker and demanded extortion
money. "You have to pay the money," he said. When asked who
was to be
paid, the man replied, "Me, the UDA." The Housing Executive
have advised the workers to leave the site in the interests of their
own safety. As contract workers this means the men are now out of work.
In recent years the UDA has been identified as the main protagonist
within Glenbryn interface areas. Evidence of an active UDA presence in
the area has been accompanied by an increase in sectarian attacks on
nationalist homes in North Belfast.
On Friday May 30 at around 8pm a crowd of loyalist youths from Glenbryn
stoned Catholic homes at the top of Alliance Avenue. The following
evening at around 6pm loyalist youths from Glenbryn stoned four
Catholic homes in Ardoyne Road.
On Sunday June 1 at around 3pm a crowd of around 15 youths from
Glenbryn attacked two Catholic homes in Ardoyne Road with bricks and
In another incident two residents who went out to stop three children
from nationalist Ardoyne throwing stones into Glenbryn, were confronted
by a loyalist mob of around 20. The crowd, which included interface
workers from Glenbryn, attacked the residents with bottles and bricks.
24 hours later a nationalist community worker and two residents were
attacked by a crowd of around 15 loyalist youths who pelted them with
bottles and roofing tiles. A few hours later the mob returned attacking
two Catholic homes in Alliance Avenue with petrol bombs.
On Monday night a confrontation between six men all of whom had been
drinking almost escalated into a fullscale riot when over a hundred
loyalists, responding to a siren, gathered in the Twaddle area on the
edge of nationalist Ardoyne. Four nationalist men who had been involved
in the initial drunken brawl were attacked by the crowd but escaped
when the PSNI arrived.
Loyalist claims that one of the two Protestant men involved in the
brawl had suffered serious head injures and required medical treatment
at the Mater Hospital, came under doubt after the hospital told the
media they had no record of any such case.
Speaking to An Phoblacht Ardoyne community worker Kate Lagan admitted
that there had also been a number of incidents involving nationalist
children and 'anti social' elements. "In both incidents local residents
from the Ardoyne immediately challenged their behaviour and the
incidents were stopped within minutes," said Kate.
Kate said that she believed neither community had anything to gain from
a summer of sectarian tension and violence and urged Glenbryn residents
to be more proactive in challenging trouble emanating from within their