Loyalists in fresh violence outside Catholic School

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The Independent Online

Fresh loyalist violence erupted as security forces mounted a huge operation to escort tCatholic children and their parents to a primary school in a flashpoint area of north Belfast.

One policeman who caught the force of a pipe bomb explosion was rushed to hospital with a broken collar bone during clashes when troops and RUC officers held back 200 protesters.

Bricks and bottles were thrown and at one stage garden fencing was ripped up and used to attack security forces.

Dozens of RUC and Army Land Rovers lined up along both sides of the Ardoyne Road and used as a protective corridor as up to 45 girls, all aged under 11, and their parents as they walked the 300 yards to Holy Cross Primary School.

None of the children or parents was hurt.

But others were too frightened because of the tension, and stayed away as the violence erupted in the neighbouring Protestant Glenbryn estate.

The new clashes followed a night of rioting in several parts of north Belfast during which 21 RUC officers were injured.

Gunmen also opened fire in republican and loyalist districts. Blast bombs were thrown and a number of Catholic homes were damaged.

As the children reached their classrooms today, politicians and senior churchmen on all sides appealed for calm.

At the height of today's trouble riot squad officers went into a garden in Ardoyne Road where up to 50 loyalist protesters had gathered.

Baton–wielding police fought with an angry mob who hurled rocks, fence poles and flowerpots.

The crowd was pushed back into the rear of the house as the tense situation erupted into violence.

A huge blast then occurred in Glenbryn Parade, and police quickly moved in to drive around 150 loyalists who had gathered there back down the road.

One police officer was injured in the explosion, which appeared to have been a blast bomb.

Colleagues rushed to his aid as the officer lay on the ground close to where the explosion occurred.

Earlier there was trouble directly opposite the Holy Cross School, where police and troops battled with crowds of loyalists gathered at Wheatfield School.

Later teachers and parents expressed relief that the children had made it to

school safely.

Holy Cross principal Anne Tanney said: "It was obviously much better today, the children arrived into school smiling and prepared to go in to class without parents.

"But it's certainly not a normal situation and we don't want that again.

"Adults don't realise what they're doing to the children – people should treat them with care because they are so precious."

Lisa Irvine, 34, who had just seen her nine–year–old daughter Shannon into school, was still shaking as she stood outside.

"They didn't get as close to us today and police should have done the same yesterday," she said.

"I'm so glad my daughter's in school but I'm still sad because these people are obviously still bitter."