Belfast Telegraph

RIRA in threat to school bus drivers
Special needs kids' transport changed

By Brian Hutton
14 September 2004

Bus drivers taking special needs children to school from an Army base in Co Londonderry have come under direct threat from the Real IRA, it has emerged.

Two drivers, employed by the Western Education and Library Board, have now refused to collect two young children from the Ballykelly Army base for fear of their lives.

Alternative arrangements have already been put in place to safely transport the children to and from a local special needs school.

An outraged Bertie Faulkner, vice-chairman of the WELB, said they were forced into the move after a RIRA gun attack on civilian workers at Strand Road police station in Derry last week.

"The first thing that is paramount is the safety of employees and children, so these threats have to be taken seriously," he said.

"It's obscene that this should happen. It is outrageous when we are in a situation where we are trying to take the peace process forward.

"Whoever the organisation is behind this, I would ask them to withdraw their threats."

Mr Faulkner said it had been a long time since such an incident has disrupted children's lives.

"There were incidents in the bad old days in the past 30 years but it has been a long time since there was anything like this," he said.

"Education has been an oasis for everybody during the past 30 years of trouble. Children should not be subjected to this."

Independent councillor Brian Brown, who lives in Ballykelly, was "astonished and appalled" by the threats.

"This shows you the mentality of the people in the RIRA. Are they now stooping to the level of the people who carried out the atrocity in Beslan?

"How they think it is justifiable to stop children going to school is beyond me."

"I thought these type of things had gone away," he added.

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