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Belfast school fund-raiser nets $10,000 for counseling

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jack Holland

Well over $10,000 was raised last Thursday at a fund-raiser for the embattled Holy Cross schoolgirls of North Belfast.

The fund-raiser, organized by Ed Lynch of the Lawyers Alliance for Justice in Ireland, and Justice Patrick Henry, was held at the Irish Coffee pub in East Islip, Long Island. The guests of honor were Elaine Burns and her daughter Leona, who is 8 1/2 and attends Holy Cross Girls’ School.

Last year, the girls were besieged by loyalists who were angered at the fact that the pupils passed along a Protestant street on the way to school every morning. The confrontation produced some of the ugliest and disturbing images ever to come out of Northern Ireland, with terrified girls huddled together as angry protesters howled at them in rage, throwing bottles, rocks and at one point even a pipe bomb.

According to Carol Russell, who has been active in gathering support for the schoolgirls and was involved organizing the event, well over 200 people attended. She says that the money raised will go to pay for counseling for the girls.

“All 220 girls need counseling because of the trauma,” she said. “Many are having nightmares, and are experiencing bedwetting problems.” She reported the case of one little girl who is afraid to look out her window because every time she does she sees “Spiderman.”

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“Spiderman” was the nickname of one of the loyalist protesters, so-called because he wore a funny hat, according to Russell.

Elaine Burns is on the Holy Cross board of governors as the parents’ representative. As such, she is the only parent authorized by the school to speak on its behalf.

The loyalist protest has stopped outside the school. But the problems are far from resolved. A proposed “peace wall” to be built around the school would effectively enclose it in the Protestant enclave, which worries the parents, who are opposing its construction.

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