Seven years after the loyalist blockade of a north Belfast primary school the
mother of one former pupil will today take her legal challenge over police
handling of the 12- week Holy Cross protest to the law lords.
The House of Lords will hear the case of the mother known as E whose daughter
attended Holy Cross Primary School during the loyalist blockade which made
headlines around the world in the autumn of 2001.
Solicitors representing the mother will argue police handling of the blockade
and the failure of the then RUC chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan to properly
protect parents and children during the loyalist protest was a breech of the
Human Rights Act.
The case is being taken to the House of Lords after the Northern Ireland appeal
court rejected claims of police negligence.
Holy Cross parish priest Fr Aidan Troy, who accompanied the children on the
route to school each day during the protest, will travel to Westminster to give
a submission on behalf of the mother.
At the time of the dispute E’s daughter was seven-years-old and a primary three
pupil at the Ardoyne school.
She says her child suffered considerably and is still receiving counselling as a
result of the long-running dispute.
“In the end I had to move home and leave north Belfast altogether because of
death threats, my child’s personality completely changed, she is still getting
help because of that,” she said.
“While this happened seven years ago I feel it’s still very relevant today.
“I was told that I was going to get a bullet in my head while an RUC man stood
listening and yet no arrests were made.
“The RUC didn’t protect us and some mornings actually kept us waiting at the
bottom of the road to give the loyalists a chance to get out of bed and
assemble,” she claimed.
“Children were spat on, urine thrown over them and on the third morning a pipe
bomb thrown at us.
“They held up pornographic images and shouted filthy abuse and all the while the
RUC in riot gear stood with their guns facing us, treating the children as the
aggressors rather than the protesters.
“I would be hopeful that the House of Lords would uphold our case but if not I’m
willing to take this all the way to Europe as what happened at Holy Cross is
something that should never be allowed to happen again.”
Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane solicitors, who is representing the
mother at the House of Lords appeal, said the case challenged the RUC decision
to police the walk to school as though it were a “contentious parade”.
“The RUC erected large screens on the Ardoyne Road, but rather than utilise
those screens to protect children, they in fact physically exposed them to a
relentless onslaught of sectarian violence from protesters, committing serious
criminal offences in full view of police.
“The RUC have never advanced any explanation for its actions, which have
resulted in long-term psychological damage to the children,” said Mr Shiels.