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Community Voices - BBC Newsline, 26 November 2001. Reporter Colette Maguire. Image of smiling Holy Cross pupils on last day of school

School's out at Holy Cross Primary - some children were positively jumping for joy. For the first time in twelve weeks, parents and pupils outnumbered the police and army on the Ardoyne Road. The afternoon school run, a carbon-copy of the morning trip with the security operation scaled down.

I think it's went very well up to now, you know. I'm hoping to see a return to normal. When I say 'normal', I mean, there used to be thirty to forty parents walking up here. There was a hell of a lot more here this morning but that's all down to the uncertainty of what this morning holds. But I'm hopeful that maybe the return to cars will help to cut down on the numbers.

Well, I think we've taken a first step, a very small step because the protest has not been permanently stopped - and that's what we would have liked to have seen. But we welcome the suspension in the hope that we can build on it, but there is an awful lot of work to do.

Crossing the road, and crossing paths. Two families - one going to Catholic Holy Cross, the other to Protestant Wheatfield Primary. The deal that's been brokered is still in its infancy, but those involved in the sensitive discussions say it's a good start.

I think this morning was a most important morning because, had this gone wrong this morning, I don't know where we would have been. I think the fact that it's gone so well (I wouldn't see it anywhere near a solution) but I think it's a very important first step.

Well I'm very pleased at the way things went this morning. There was a lot of work, even not apart from last week, even over the weekend, with the police and with the meeting between the residents on both sides to try to ensure that things did go smoothly - and I'm pleased that they did. I think now the focus has got to be on delivering on the issues of concern to people.

As this morning's school run was about to get underway, the army were defusing a pipe-bomb found in a nearby back garden. But it didn't detract from proceedings.

I mean, my four-year-old was skipping up the road to school, on the footpath, and, you know, really just felt…looking at her, she was quite at ease, she didn't feel frightened. And to see a four-year-old skipping on the way to school, that's what we wanted and that's the way it always should have been.

This dispute has taken its toll on the police, eating into resources and finance. Sinn Féin have been critical of how they have handled things, but the SDLP disagree.

I would pay tribute to the Police Service of Northern Ireland for their good work in relation to skilfully handling this particularly difficult situation. They have done so, I believe, with a commitment to providing safe and free access for the children and parents.

No-one is declaring that this problem is sorted, but if you consider what's happened here on the Ardoyne over the past three months, today has been a breakthrough.







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