Loyalists have renewed sectarian intimidation at the Holy Cross Catholic Girls School in the Ardoyne district of Belfast by painting red, white and blue paint on kerbstones and the letters ‘LA’ at the entrance.
LA stands for ‘Loyalist Ardoyne’, a declaration of territorial claim with an implicit threat of violence against Catholics who cross the line.
Paul McCusker, an nationalist councillor in the area, said there is “a lot of anger” locally following the development.
“If it was green, white and orange being painted outside a school I’d be the first person out and calling for it to be removed. And the letters LA right at the school gate, it’s just very intimidating for people.”
The Greater Ardoyne Residents’ Collective, which opposes sectarian parades in the area, called on Belfast City Council to remove the paint from the entrance to a school that has “suffered already from many years of loyalist attacks and intimidation”.
In 2001, the same school was the focus of an extended loyalist terror campaign when schoolgirls were forced to run a gauntlet of hate, including a barrage of abuse and missiles such as bricks, urine, excrement, and blast bombs, just to reach their school building.
A DUP activist in the area described the paint as “cultural expression” and said it comes against a backdrop of “cultural warfare” by Sinn Fein, an apparent reference to that party’s calls for legal protection for Irish language speakers.
Meanwhile, loyalists have boasted that the PSNI police have turned a blind eye to a new illegal bonfire being built on a public car park in East Belfast.
It comes after a fiasco in which Belfast City Council illegally stored wooden pallets for one loyalist bonfire group, including a large number stolen from a pallet manufacturer, only to have them stolen in turn by persons unknown.
When told that bonfire criminals had the impression that the PSNI “don’t really care”, a spokesman for the PSNI claimed it had “no legislative powers” to remove illegal bonfires or seize stolen bonfire material.
The force also indicated it had been aware that Belfast City Council had been handling stolen goods for the benefit of the bonfire gangs.
“Police were aware that the pallets were to be removed by Belfast City Council,” a spokesman said. “Police knew that Belfast City Council were removing the pallets to a storage facility.”
Sinn Fein’s Jim McVeigh, the party’s group leader on the council, said the PSNI response “reinforces the importance of this investigation”.
“This reinforces one of the key questions we have, which is why were the majority of councillors not informed when it seems that quite a lot of people knew about this,” he said.