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Belfast school reopens after riots

Holy Cross school security
Tight security for the walk to school  

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Children have returned to a school that has been a flashpoint for violence, after a night of rioting between Catholics and Protestants that left dozens of police and troops injured.

Police vehicles lined the road on Friday morning as Catholic parents and children walked to Holy Cross Primary School in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, but there was no sign of Protestant demonstrators.

The school was closed on Thursday after violence broke out in the tense and divided area.

Overnight, rival factions totalling about 350 people hurled fire bombs, acid bombs and stones at officers trying to keep them apart, police said.

At least two homemade grenades exploded near police, who said they fired seven plastic bullets in response.

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A total of 82 police and troops were hurt during the 48 hours of trouble, in which 11 people were arrested.

Several cars and vans that had been earlier vandalised were also set on fire in the rubble-strewn streets.

The trouble spread when cars were damaged and houses had their windows smashed.

Security presence

A temporary calm returned to the Ardoyne Road as Catholic parents and children walked peacefully to Holy Cross school on Friday morning.

There was no sign of a resumption of the protest by Loyalist residents as the Catholic girls school reopened after serious rioting erupted on the streets earlier this week.

Riot police
Hundreds of police officers were deployed to quell the violence  

First to arrive at the school was Tracy McLaughlin with her two daughters Megan and Sarah Jane who walked the 400 yards past a small knot of residents and police officers.

There was a heavy security presence on the road as the parents made their way to the school.

Brendan Mailey, of the Catholic Right to Education Group, welcomed the absence of a protest.

"We need the Glenbryn residents to tell any stragglers to get off the road and let people go up in peace. That will help enormously to diffuse the situation," he told the Press Association.

Anne Bill, spokeswoman for the Loyalist Concerned Residents of Upper Ardoyne called for the setting up of the proposed community forum to help restore order to the area.

"I think people hear are feeling pretty tense that this whole thing has flared up again but they are really positive that there will be no resumption of the protest."

Last year, Holy Cross school was the target of months of demonstrations by Protestants, who daily blocked the road and shouted insults at the Catholic schoolgirls and their parents. They claimed Catholics had attacked their homes.

The protests, which ended in November, forced police to deploy hundreds of officers backed by British soldiers to ensure the children's safety each day.


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