Belfast police brace for violence at schools after loyalist threats

Police were preparing to mount a security operation at dozens of schools across a fearful north Belfast today after loyalist threats against teachers and school staff.

Alan McQuillan, Assistant Chief Constable, said the Police Service would be taking "very clear steps" to reassure people and ensure children arrived at their schools safely.

"That will include very high-profile operations in the vicinity of schools and it will include working very closely with headteachers and people in the community," he said.

The move follows the Red Hand Defenders' warning last week that Catholic teachers and school staff were "legitimate targets" and the killing in north Belfast of Daniel McColgan, 20, a Catholic postman.

First Minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan described the shooting on Saturday as horrific and said it had disgusted all right-thinking people.

"The recent threats made by loyalist paramilitaries against Catholic postal workers and teachers, especially those working in north, should be withdrawn immediately," they said in a joint statement.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, the Northern Ireland Education Minister, said he would meet school staff to discuss what he called "the unacceptable threat against teachers" and the wider, fraught situation in north Belfast schools.

Loyalist rioters last week attacked teachers' cars at a north Belfast Catholic school while their main target, the Holy Cross girls primary school, was closed after a night of rioting.

Two men remained in police custody yesterday for questioning over the murder of Mr McColgan. The paramilitary Ulster Defence Association admitted the killing.

Meanwhile, police in north Belfast seized arms, including a gun and four pipe bombs, thought to belong to the Irish National Liberation Army.

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