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Riot bill runs into millions

Young people in Ulster may want to work for peace but their words reveal only the divisions that haunt their lives. Paul McGill on the aftermath of the July 12 marches.

Ulster's schools suffered badly last week as tensions over Protestant July 12 parades erupted into riots. At least 21 schools were damaged, several seriously, as young people took to the streets in scenes which recalled the 1970s.

Our Lady of Mercy secondary school in north Belfast was badly damaged in what was thought to be a loyalist arson attack, which gutted one wing. Firefighters were attacked by a stone-throwing mob as they tried to control the blaze. An entire wing of a Catholic primary school, St Mary's Star of the Sea, was destroyed.

On the second night of trouble, two other north Belfast schools, the Girls Model secondary and Cliftonville primary, were hit. St Mary's on the Hill in Glengormley, just outside the city boundary, was petrol-bombed and Ardnaveigh high school in Antrim was fire damaged. Several schools in the Portadown area suffered.

The Jaffe Centre in north Belfast for pupils with emotional and behavioural difficulties, which survived two world wars, was destroyed in an arson attack. Two libraries, one in Strabane and another in south-west Belfast, were damaged and a mobile library was stolen in Lisburn and rammed into a shop.

The consequences could be felt throughout the education service as money is diverted to make good the damage. The cost has been estimated to run into millions.

Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Northern Ireland Secretary, has warned that cash would have to be cut from education and other services to restore security spending to pre-ceasefire levels.

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