Two primary schools in Ballymena have been struck by unionist arsonists in a start-of-term message of hate.

The attempts to burn down St Louis’ primary school in Ballymena and St Mary’s primary school in nearby Harryville came within hours of each other on Tuesday night.

One room in St Louis’ was gutted and ten others suffered smoke damage after flammable liquid was poured through a broken window on Tuesday.

Children who were supposed to start their first day at school will not now start until Monday as a clean-up operation gets under way at St Louis’.

The attacks ironically came on the same day that unionist paramilitaries in the area launched a campaign to promote their culture.

Bishop of Down and Connor Patrick Walsh, who visited St Louis’ and St Mary’s yesterday, called on political leaders to find a solution to the attacks.

“In this situation, party political interests must be set aside and all must be seen to stand for what is for the good of the entire community.” Meanwhile, a Catholic family living in a mixed housing estate in County Antrim have been targeted for the second time in a month in a sectarian attack.

A mother and daughter were in their home in Bleach Green Avenue in Newtownabbey when three paint bombs smashed against the windows and walls at 11pm on Tuesday.

Three weeks ago, a van used by the family’s business was gutted and two other Catholic houses in the estate were paint-bombed.

The family, who have also been coming to terms with the death of their father in April, had already decided to quit the home they have lived in for 29 years.

Sinn Fein is seeking a meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern to discuss loyalist violence.

Meanwhile, DUP leader Ian Paisley, who is also North Antrim MP , said he condemned sectarianism but claimed that his word made no difference to loyalists involved in violence.

“These attacks ought to cease,” he said. “But I am afraid that I would have no influence whatsoever with the people that are doing this”.

North Antrim Sinn Fein representative Philip McGuigan urged Mr Paisley to use its influence to bring the sectarian attacks to a halt.

“Nowhere near enough is being done to bring these attacks to an end,” he said. “Yesterday I listened to the MP for this constituency, Ian Paisley, say that he had no influence over those who are waging this campaign. I disagree with this assertion. Most nationalists and republicans think that Ian Paisley has a great deal of influence over the section of community that is carrying out these attacks.

“His party sits on forums elsewhere in the North with the UDA, the UVF and with other Unionist paramilitaries. Has this contact been used to ask them to stop attacking homes, chapels, and schools in north Antrim?” Catholics living in north Antrim have been the focus of a campaign of unionist intimidation and violence since the beginning of June.

In recent weeks, five Catholic churches and four Catholic primary schools have been targeted. Since July three Catholic families have been forced to flee the nearby village of Ahoghill after a series of fire and paint bomb attacks on their homes.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News