::: u.tv :::

New book on Holy Cross

11/11/2004 08:28:08

Some children caught in the bitter Holy Cross school dispute in north Belfast still suffer nightmares that gunmen are coming to kill them, a book reveals today.

By:Press Association

Journalist Anne Cadwallader`s Holy Cross - The Untold Story claims one girl as young as four ended up on tranquillisers as a result of the trauma of walking past a loyalist picket on her way to primary school.

Boys in the area also suffered during the protest while their sisters ran the gauntlet of vicious sectarian abuse in the Glenbryn and Ardoyne sectarian interface.

While the trauma of the Holy Cross schoolgirls has been focussed on during and since the 2001 dispute, the principal of a boys school admits: "We felt a little isolated.

"Our boys were suffering and some of their parents were going through what I can only describe as nervous breakdowns.

"They were being attacked and threatened in their homes and some were made homeless.

"Boys were not able to play normally; they had trouble sleeping; some were wetting the bed because of fears their parents would be hurt.

"Some worried that the loyalists were going to come and burn the school down."

The book, which will be launched in Belfast today, also has interviews with some of the schoolgirls at the centre of the dispute.

Loyalists from the Glenbryn area picketed the school because they said they were being harassed by nationalists whose children were pupils at Holy Cross.

However this version of events is hotly disputed by the parents.

Parents say they, their children and Catholic priests were subjected to vicious sectarian abuse, had bags of urine and other missiles thrown at them and also pornographic material.

This is disputed by the protesters.

A girl, who was six at the time of the protest, reveals the extent of trauma she suffered.

She says: "I couldn`t go to bed at night.

"I used to have really bad dreams about men coming with masks on and big guns and hurting my mummy and daddy. I used to cry and all in my sleep."

Another girl, who was eight, confesses: "When I was in bed I used to have these dreams that they were rapping on the window and that they were going to kill me.

"I have a back room and I keep on thinking they are coming down the entry when my mummy and daddy are asleep coming to get me. I sometimes still get dreams like that."

Ms Cadwallader, the Northern Ireland correspondent for the Dublin-based Independent Network News radio service, has also interviewed loyalist protesters, who tell their version of events as well as that of the Catholic families.

The author focusses initially on events which led to the 12-week loyalist protest and also on the dispute itself.

The book also concentrates on the impact of the protest on teachers, local Catholic priests and Protestant ministers as well as the response of the police, journalists and politicians.

It reveals some parents were furious that Sinn Fein`s Martin McGuinness would not walk with the children past the loyalist picket as Education Minister in the power sharing executive.

However parents also acknowledge the Mid Ulster MP was right not to take part, in case it inflamed the situation.

Loyalists also tell the author of their frustration that promises from politicians in the wake of the dispute about improving their area were not fulfilled.

Some also question the way the protest was conducted but express their frustration at the way it was presented in the media.

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