The Holy Cross dispute occurred in 2001 and 2002 in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, Northern Ireland. During the 30-year conflict known as The Troubles, Ardoyne had become segregated -- Protestants lived in one area and Catholics in another. This left Holy Cross—a Catholic primary school for girls—stuck in the middle of a Protestant area. In June 2001, Protestant loyalists began picketing the school, claiming that Catholics were regularly attacking their homes and denying them access to facilities. For weeks, hundreds of protesters tried to stop the schoolchildren and their parents from walking to school through their area. Some protesters shouted sectarian abuse and threw stones, bricks, fireworks, blast bombs and urine-filled balloons at the schoolchildren and their parents. Hundreds of riot police, backed up by British soldiers, escorted them through the protest each day. The "scenes of frightened Catholic schoolgirls running a gauntlet of abuse from loyalist protesters as they walked to school captured world headlines". Death threats were made against the parents and school staff by a loyalist paramilitary group called the Red Hand Defenders. The protest was condemned by politicians from both sides and by people from both the Catholic and Protestant communities. Some likened the protest to child abuse and compared the protesters to American white supremacists in 1950s Alabama.
The first picket took place in June, during the last week of school before the summer break. It resumed on 3 September, at the beginning of the new school term, and lasted until 23 November. During this time, the protest sparked fierce rioting between the two communities in Ardoyne. The loyalists agreed to "suspend" the protest after being promised tighter security for their area.
In January 2002, a scuffle between a Protestant and a Catholic woman outside the school sparked a large-scale riot in the area. The picket was not resumed and the situation has been mostly quiet since then. The following year, the BBC aired a documentary-drama about the protests.
Protestants protesting against route taken by catholic children to the Holy Cross primary school confronting and throwing missiles at riot police and soldiers who are forcing them back from the road. Protestors throwing missiles RUC officer injured by blast bomb helped away Riot police preparing to escort children and parents to school Parents and children preparing to walk to school Frightened looking girl Police escorting parents and children along Woman hugging her daughter Protestant protestors looking on (2 SHOTS) Catholic priest greeting parents and children Vox pops SOT Mother and daughter Protestants looking on Riot police standing next vehicles Protestants looking on Banner held by protestants talking of sectarian attacks made by republicans PULL OUT Protestants looking on TGV Rooftops of North Belfast PAN Irish tricolour seen flying above rooftops Road in protestant area of the city LA Loyalist flags flying with police vehicle in f/g Vox pops SOT Reverend Norman Hamilton (Ballysillan Presbyterian Church) interview SOT - Talks of shortage of housing causing tensions Parents of children at Holy Cross, escorted by police, along road Parents along CBV Parents and police along TRACK Parents and police along TRACK Ditto TRACK Vox pops SOT Councillor Margaret McClenaghan (Sinn Fein) interview SOT - We recognise this as a protestant area AT NIGHT Youths throwing missiles at retreating police vehicle as fire burns in street Police vehicles in the street Car laying on its side burning DAY Protestants watching at parents and police pass by Police officers shielding catholic parents and children PAN soldiers and security forces vehicles.
Credit to ITV.