. Later, a claim of responsibility for this evil deed was made on behalf of the Red Hand Defenders — which is usually a cover name for the Ulster Defense Association.
The latest attack was followed by a demand that the Holy Cross school be closed or face further violence. Some have suggested that it is an attempt by loyalist thugs to draw attention a way from the murderous feud that has recently broken out over their racketeering activities. It does not matter — it is a challenge to decency that can’t be ignored.
The displays of hatred against little girls making their way to school had justifiably shocked the world when loyalists started their so-called “protest” in June 2001. These grown men and women claimed they were not targeting the kids, but their parents, who they alleged were IRA members using their children as a front to enable them to transgress by entering a Protestant area. But their shameless displays of bigotry could not be mistaken for anything else. Nor could the terror that was writen on the faces of the children. No society that has concerns for its citizens’ well-being and security can allow such displays to go unanswered.
The ugly hatreds that deform the face of Northern Ireland have rarely exhibited themselves so graphically as they have around the Holy Cross school. They remind us how far that community has still to go toward the goal of reconciliation. But they also remind us that the welfare of children, and their right to education, is central to any civilized community and must be defended vigorously.