Northern Ireland

Priest at heart of Holy Cross dispute reflects on life-changing impact on 20th anniversary

Fr Aidan Troy
Fr Aidan Troy Fr Aidan Troy

A PRIEST at the centre of Holy Cross school dispute has spoken of its life-changing impact 20 years on - and thanked parents for "placing their trust" in him.

Fr Aidan Troy became known around the world during the loyalist protests outside the north Belfast girls' primary school.

Children were subjected to sectarian harassment which escalated to violent attacks, with bricks, fireworks and blast bombs hurled as them as they walked to school.

The three-month protest began in June 2001 but resumed on September 3 at the start of the school term, when Fr Troy began escorting the pupils and their parents as loyalists tried to block the main route as they walked to class.

Posting a message on social media, the Wicklow-born cleric who has been based in Paris in an English-speak parish since 2008, said:

"20 years ago today changed my life as I walked with 225 children and their parents to Holy Cross School. For 3 months they allowed me share in their taking their young daughters to school. Thanks for your trust in me. Today I pray that lasting peace be the road ahead for all. A.T"

The Passionist priest also received deaths threats over his involvement and on one occasion police offered to escort him to the border, which he refused. He also declined the use of an apartment owned by the Irish government.

The three-month protest was sparked by a dispute between Catholic and Protestant residents in Ardoyne and made international headlines.