Police have confirmed they are investigating reports of a threat allegedly issued by a loyalist paramilitary group to Catholic schools in north Belfast.
A man claiming to be a representative of the Red Hand Defenders group contacted the Irish News on Friday to say “military action” would begin on Monday morning if the parents, pupils and staff of three Catholic schools in north Belfast did not take the threat seriously.
The man is said to have made it clear parents, pupils and teachers are not welcome at the three schools which he added were in “Protestant, unionist and loyalist areas”.
He said the threat had been “reactivated” due to “attacks on the Protestant, unionist and loyalist community in recent months”.
A police spokesman said there was no evidence to verify the threat but urged leaders within the community to use their influence to diffuse tensions.
He said: “Police are aware of a threat that has been made in relation to a number of schools in North Belfast.
“The threat was made through a third party on Friday 6 September 2013. Investigations into the threat are ongoing. At this stage there is no evidence to corroborate the threat.
“Police are committed to protecting all communities in North Belfast and we would encourage all community leaders and those in positions of influence to play an active role in diffusing tension and maintaining calm.”
North Belfast Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly called for the threat to be withdrawn immediately.
“This is a disgraceful and sinister statement to come from any organisation or individual against school children, their parents and teachers,” he said.
“Those responsible have threatened violent action against children.
“We must now see unionist and loyalist leaders coming out and condemning these threats in the strongest possible terms, call on the Red Hand Defenders to withdraw this threat and actively support the rights of any child to attend any school of their choice where ever it may be situated and receive their education with without fear or intimidation.”