A pipe bomb attack on a flashpoint primary school in north Belfast will not signal the start of a new protest campaign by loyalists, it was claimed tonight.
Protestant residents, who disowned the attack at the Holy Cross Primary School, have pledged no more demonstrations, security sources disclosed.
Loyalists have been blamed for leaving the bomb on the school gates, which was found just an hour before the start of the new term.
Fr Aidan Troy, chairman of the board of governors, said he hoped it was a one-off incident.
“I hope it was the act of some individual or a small group of individuals. I do not believe it represents the views of the wider Glenbryn area.”
He praised the quick actions of the security forces in sealing off the area and preventing possible death or injury.
“To hang something on a school gate with explosives in it seems to me to be the height of irresponsibility,” he added.
Loyalist community worker Mark Coulter called on whoever was responsible to stop.
“Hopefully people have been through enough to know not to take the bait. This sort of activity will not garner much support from the ordinary people of Glenbryn or Ardoyne,” he added.
Police district commander, Chief Superintendent Julie Lindsay-White said she did not believe the attack had the support of the people of the area.
“Police remain committed, along with help from both communities, to bring attacks like this to a halt.
“The local communities in the immediate area have been working hard to make sure that the problems of the past have not been resurrected,” she added.
The opening term of 2001 was marked by violence when terrified Holy Cross girls and their parents endured a daily torrent of abuse from loyalists living close to the school
The frightening three-month ordeal followed a dispute between deeply divided Catholic and Protestant communities living close together.
But clashes between loyalists and republicans in the area have stopped since last summer.
A senior loyalist politician claimed that republicans were behind today’s attack in an attempt to heighten tensions in advance of a two-part BBC television programme on violence in the area.
The first part of the programme will be seen from the perspective of nationalists, while the second will feature the views of loyalists.
Billy Hutchinson, of the Progressive Unionist Party, which is linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force, said: “I would have to question who in their right mind would plant a bomb on the morning that this programme is going to go out.
“I think we should be looking outside the unionist community,” he added.
Sinn Fein’s North Belfast Assemblyman Gerry Kelly blamed the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association for the attack.
He said: “The New Year has only begun and already we have a disgraceful attack on children by some faction of the UDA.”
North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds said those who planted the device did not represent the overwhelming majority of Protestants in the area.
“All schools should be places free from any form of violence or threat of violence. It is outrageous and totally unacceptable that anyone would endanger the lives of schoolchildren, relatives and teachers through this type of action.
SDLP Assembly member for the area Alban Maginness described the targeting of young children as “vile”, adding that nothing could be gained from it.
“It is saddening that when the situation had finally calmed down some people have taken it upon themselves to fan the flames of sectarian hatred in north Belfast,” he added.