Irish Republican News · November 10, 2003
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Holy Cross drama bitterly criticised

A new drama based on the loyalist intimidation at Holy Cross Girls school has been given the thumbs down by nationalists in north Belfast.

`Holy Cross' was billed as a fictional story about a Catholic and Protestant family involved in the dispute two years ago.

Catholics leaving church in Ardoyne on Sunday said it was wrong to make a film about the school protest so soon after the event.

Pensioners Anita and Michael Burns, whose two granddaughters attended Holy Cross during the protests, believe the decision to make a drama about the attacks and harassment of girls at the school was ill-conceived.

``I think it was totally wrong that they should have made a film about what those children were forced to go through,'' Mr Burns said.

``What annoyed me most was the fact that none of the families who went through this whole thing seemed to have had any say about the way they were portrayed. To me this film will just make relations between the two communities even worse.''

Mrs Burns said the memory of the Holy Cross protests was still too raw for many of those effected to relive the ordeal.

``We know from personal experience what our granddaughters had to go through,'' she said.

``When the protests were happening and our granddaughters were being attacked every day on their way to school I made an official complaint to the (police) ombudsman at the way the police were letting this thing happen.

``To me this drama seemed more interested in making newspaper headlines than properly portraying the trauma that those children and their parents went through.''

Community worker Philip McTaggart, who counsels young people in Ardoyne who are suffering from stress, accused the BBC and RTE of turning a traumatic incident into light entertainment.

``To me this drama tried to make an entertainment programme out of what was a deeply disturbing period for dozens of families in this community.''

Mr McTaggart, whose son took his own life earlier this year through depression, expressed concerns that the drama could add to the trauma for which children and parents were still receiving counselling.

``What concerns me most is that this community already has huge problems with young people taking their own lives through stress and trauma and this programme will do nothing to help address that problem,'' he said.

``Many of the children who had to go through those protests are still being treated for the trauma they were forced to endure.

``People shouldn't forget that pipe bombs, bottles, stones and urine were hurled at these little girls and their parents, for no other reason than they wanted to go to school.''

Former Holy Cross governor Gerard McGuigan described the drama as ``deeply flawed'' and ``insensitive''.

``To me it appeared that the film-makers were trying to produce a balance between Catholics and Protestants when in actual fact if you look at what happened there was no balance,'' he said.

``The fact of the matter is that Catholic children were attacked on their way to school. Those protests were tantamount to child abuse and to try to gloss over what happened and come up with a drama which reinforces the old cliche that `one side was as bad as the other' was just factually and morally wrong.''

The drama portrayed two schoolgirls, one Catholic and one Protestant, both of whom were depicted as victims of a gauntlet of hate through which Catholic schoolgirls had to pass through on their way to school.

As expected, the drama resorted to stereotypes. The Catholic father was predictably depicted as an IRA man, while the loyalist father stood around drinking lager in a tight-fitting shirt.

Holy Cross rector Fr Aidan Troy has said he felt that portrayed the family as paramilitary and involved in the IRA was unjust.

``That kind of representation is not fair, it's not keeping to the story. But even if every child and their parents were paramilitaries who walked that gauntlet it would not matter. It was child abuse, pure and simple and totally unprovoked. Those children were left to stew for three months and left to endure the taunts.

``Now if anyone wants to make a movie about paramilitaries, don't call it Holy Cross - call it `Guns `n' Roses'. But don't call it Holy Cross, that's an insult.''

We have a favour to ask

We want to keep our publication as available as we can, so we need to ask for your help. Irish Republican News takes time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe it makes a difference. If everyone who reads our website helps fund it, our future would be much more secure.

For as little as £1, you can support Irish Republican News – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

© 2003 Irish Republican News