Seige at
Holy Cross
Lisa Irvine, mother of nine-year old Holy Cross student Shannon, visits Hartford to describe the "walk of hate" created by north Belfast loyalists over the last six months in the Ardoyne.
Lisa Irvine and Hartford INAC chairman Tom McBride
Lisa Irvine understands sectarianism.  She has lived with it all her life. Lisa is a single mother who has, with daughter Shannon, braved the gauntlet of violence that has visited their walk to the Holy Cross School for Girls most mornings since September, 2001.

That's when loyalist die-hards decided to make school children their target.  Armed with bags of dog shit, pornographic images, obscene insults, and eventually pipe bombs, a crowd of thugs has harassed Shannon, Lisa, and the other Catholic families who have been making their way to school each morning.

What caused these outbursts of hate? Some say it was a traffic accident in June, 2001 that led to a fight between a few people.  Loyalist spokesmen say it is the lack of good jobs and affordabe housng that Protestants face in Belfast. Others say it is the "provocation" to their neighborhood that Catholic school girls would dare use a public road to get to school.

Lisa knows better.  Only a short while ago, this relatively calm community (about split 50-50 in its Catholic and Protestant population) started seeing hardline UDA families move up from the Shankill to take residence.  The uneasy balance was broken.

Lisa answers all our questions, questions she has probably answered a million times by now: Why not take a different route? "We did (as she shows us the videotape) but they blocked us and kids from other schools as well."

Why continue to subject your child to this hate?  "I've talked with Shannon every morning.  If even once she said she did not want to go, we wouldn't have.  But she told me that these people don't know what they are doing and that she forgives them."

Besides, Lisa tells us, they refuse to act like second-class citizens.  Since the signing of  the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, she is determined that her child will not grow up with the same lack of dignity, the same hopelessness that she has faced.

Listen carefully and you can hear Lisa's words echo back forty years ago to Montgomery or Selma, and other mothers who vow they will never stop fighting for their chidlren's dignity.

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State Representative Peggy Sayers with Lisa and Tom at the State Capitol.