27 January 2006

Schoolgirls left shaken after sectarian attack


A group of schoolgirls from Ligoniel were left badly shaken after being physically assaulted in a sectarian attack this week.
In what local residents have claimed was the latest in a series of such attacks, pupils from Our Lady of Mercy secondary school had walked down the Ligoniel road and crossed into Bilston Road when they were set upon by a group of youths. They verbally abused the girls and spat on them, before carrying out a physical assault on them.
Despite being only yards from the school gate further down Bilston Road, the schoolgirls were forced to run back up the Ligoniel road where local residents came to their aid.
One resident who was first on the scene said the girls were in a bad way when she got to them.
“We heard squealing and saw the girls running up the road so we came out to make sure they were okay. You could tell from their uniforms that they had been attacked. They were covered in spit and some were crying, it was awful,” she said.
Sinn Féin Councillor for the area, Margaret McClenaghan, said that all schoolchildren should be allowed to make their way safely to school without the threat of attack.
“I would appeal for calm in the community at this point in time. Schoolchildren should be allowed to go to and from their school in a safe environment regardless of the uniform they are wearing.
“The young girls caught up in the attack this morning are understandably very shaken at what has happened.
“I am calling on people with influence in the Upper Crumlin Road area to work to ensure that this type of incident doesn’t happen again.”
Cllr McClenaghan said much work had been done on the interface to combat such assaults.
“North Belfast has a number of interface workers tasked with dealing with this type of situation. I would call on them all to work together constructively to ensure the safety of all school children in the area.”
A PSNI spokesman confirmed that they were investigating an attack on schoolgirls in the Crumlin Road and Bilston Road area.

Journalist:: Evan Short

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