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16 October 2014
BBC NI - Eyewitness

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Community Voices - Fr Aidan Troy (CP) is parish priest of the Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne Fr Aidan Troy

The children now on both sides are seeing things that no child should see. The children going up to school, which I can see better and I certainly don't limit it to that, are hearing expressions used about religion, about society, about how people live. Those little ones going to school are not stupid - they're hearing it. Some of the children who have been part of the protest, brought into the protest by their own families perhaps, they're also hearing things from the people standing around them that they shouldn't hear. And that's what worries me - that all children who are damaged. It's an absolutely terrible thing and I think that those children will look back on this period in history and ask what we as adults were doing about it.

It's been suggested - and you've heard this criticism yourself - that the parents are using these children. What's your response to that?

If I saw evidence that the parents were using these children for a cause, I wouldn't walk the road. I can say that quite truthfully because I'm not an elected leader, I'm not a politician - I'm a priest, chairperson of the board of governors. And I from the bottom of my heart believe that this is fundamentally an issue of parents choosing to go to school with their children, as many of those mothers went to school themselves, by the road that they always went. And that if, for instance - as can happen - on occasion, somebody would like to use this and may even use it, that is by way of total exception. I'm absolutely convinced of that, that even if we were to concede that because of the situation we have to be very careful who walks the road at the time the children are walking it. I am absolutely certain in my own heart that there is not an abuse of that. The day that I become convinced that this is being used for an ulterior purpose, I guarantee you, you won't see me on the road. This is simply parents wanting to bring their little girls to school and home again, full stop.

Is it a fundamental human rights issue?

It's a fundamental human rights issue and it's also a fundamental educational issue, because I think the lesson the children are being given is this, that they have to struggle for the most fundamental right to education and I think that's very, very sad.

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