Morning View: Improving Community Relations Must Be Priority for North Belfast; 8

Article excerpt

THE sectarian trouble in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast sadly presents to the world an image of the most corrosive aspects of Northern Ireland society and, despite the untiring efforts of genuine peace-loving people on both sides of the political and religious divide in the area, the madness continues.

Tensions surrounding the Holy Cross school dispute, which, on the surface, appeared to ease before Christmas, were ominously heightened this week as a result of what has been described as a series of "niggling events" involving the Protestant residents of Glenbryn estate and Roman Catholic parents of pupils at the school.

Even with the apparent settlement of the six-month-long Holy Cross school dispute, a strong feeling of mistrust remained between the conflicting sides. Although, with the presence of a strong police force in the area, it was still felt that the lid could be kept on the situation long enough to allow space and dialogue to develop for the wounds to be healed permanently.

Tragically, this has not happened, largely because there are people around with malevolent intent; people with a sinister agenda which clearly does not extend to the unionist/loyalist and nationalist/republican people of north Belfast being allowed to peacefully co-exist in a normal neighbourly way.

The disgraceful riotous scenes in the republican part of Ardoyne on Wednesday night were clearly orchestrated by paramilitaries and conducted with a viciousness and focus that was more directed at targeting and discrediting the police than with seeking to properly correct wrongs over the inalienable right of children to attend school.

Pictorial coverage of the Ardoyne rioting shows at least one republican elected representative very close to the heart of the trouble which resulted in injury to 48 policemen. It does lead many outside observers to pose the question: are some local politicians and community leaders in north Belfast doing enough to bring about a peaceful end to the conflict?

Worryingly, the trouble escalated yesterday to affect other schools in the north Belfast area, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. A loyalist gang appallingly smashed cars at Our Lady of Mercy School at nearby Ballysillan, while Protestant pupils at Ligoniel Primary School were sent home early after nationalist youths gathered outside the school. …