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Europe

Hopes for Peace dashed in Belfast

After two days of serious rioting in Belfast, school children take up lessons again at a Catholic school which was at the heart of the confrontation.

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Streets ablaze in Northern Ireland

After a second night of fierce fighting, cars burned early on Friday on Belfast’s streets.

A dispute outside Holy Cross school in the Ardoyne district, a run-down part of north Belfast flared into serious rioting on Thursday. More than 136 petrol bombs, acid bombs and bricks were thrown as pitched battles took place between hundreds of youths and the police.

Politicians and community leaders spent the day trying to calm the dispute in the Ardoyne. But their efforts were in vain, as youths took to the streets to vent their fury.

31 police and 3 soldiers are said to have been injured in the clashes. Police said 5 blast bombs were thrown at police lines by nationalist rioters and some 90 petrol bombs were hurled by protesters, including pro-British loyalists, while cars were hijacked and set on fire. Burning cars on the Catholic side spew thick black smoke, as helicopters lit up the scene with a powerful white searchlight.

Hopes dampened

The Holy Cross school, located in a Protestant enclave bordering a Catholic neighbourhood, was at the centre of heated confrontation during a 12-week-protest by Protestant residents last year. Viewers all over the world were shocked by images of young girls guarded by riot police and troops on their way to school.

The fresh riots have dampened recent hopes to solve the conflict. In October last year, the IRA, which fought for years to end the British rule of the province, made its first move to disarmament.

Northern Ireland First minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan both appealed for calm. "We were deeply disturbed to see the renewed scenes of violence in north Belfast today after the progress which has been made in recent weeks," they said.

Despite the overnight violence, Catholic schoolgirls at the Holy Cross school were set to return to lessons on Friday morning. ""I certainly hope we’ll be able to see the children going to school for as normal a day as we can within the context of what we have here," Holy Cross School chairmann of governors Father Aidan Troy told Sky television. "All we want is to see the children go to school and all other issues must then be taken into consideration for discussion," he said.