Father Aidan Troy, the chairman of the board of governors at the school in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, told the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation yesterday that police officers had twice warned him of threats to his life.
“The most recent threat relayed to me was by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who told me I would be killed within two days,” he told the forum, which met in Dublin Castle yesterday.
The priest also said the planting of a pipe bomb at the school gates earlier this month had a devastating effect on pupils.
The numbers expected to enter the school next year have fallen from 23 to 16, while some children have also had to resume therapy since the bomb was discovered.
Fr Troy also quoted a statement by the Red Hand Commandos, who demanded the school be closed.
He said he understood why children would not feel it was safe to send their children to Holycross, but said it would be a tragedy to close the school in the face of intimidation. A minority of people was to blame, he added.
“I do not blame the people of the Glenbryn area for these messages. It takes only one sick mind or a perverted person to create fear, intimidation and a form of terrorism,” he said. Fr Troy said the board of governors at the primary school would never take its agenda from people who issued threats.
Despite the ongoing threats, he also disclosed details of a plan to open a cross-community crèche at Holycross, which would be separate from the school, within the next year-and-a-half.
The Holycross school was at the centre of worldwide media attention throughout September and October 2001 when loyalist protesters jeered children and the parents on their way to school.
Parents and children were twice-daily exposed to a barrage of verbal abuse, whistle-blowing and occasional spitting by the residents. At its height, the protests were marked by stink bombs, urine-filled balloons and even a blast bomb.
The protests eventually stopped following a series of meetings with community leaders.