Dark day for Ballymena nationalists
Loyalists attacked mourners on their way to the funeral of murdered
Catholic schoolboy Michael McIlveen today.
A group of loyalists stoned two cars en route to Crebilly graveyard,
shouting "kill the fenians".
Sinn Fein councillor Monica Digney, who was in the cortege, said some
of the attackers carried placards claiming they were "under siege".
The 15-year-old's coffin had earlier been taken from All Saints Church
after Requiem Mass attended by more than 1,000 people.
A priest told mourners a darkness had descended upon Ballymena with the
"wanton murder" of Michael.
Father Paul Symonds told the mourners that Michael's brutal murder will
not have been in vain if it leads to "a new vision" for Ballymena.
He was chased, cornered and battered with a baseball bat last Sunday
week. Even though he managed to stagger home, the badly beaten
schoolboy was taken to the Antrim Area Hospital, where he died a day
A poignant poem written by Michael was a moving centrepiece at his
funeral today, which was attended by thousands of people. The poenj
said: "Thank you, God, for this beautiful world.
"Help me always to respect your world and remember that all creation
comes from you.
"Help me always to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me ... always
to know it is not mine to damage or destroy."
Dozens of mourners wore jerseys of the Glasgow Celtic soccer team,
which Michael was wearing when he was killed. Celtic star Roy Keane
sent his number 16 Hoops jersey, signed by all the players, to the
family as a show of solidarity.
Michael's family said the Roy Keane gesture mean at lot to them as
Michael was a big Celtic fan.
Many of Michael's Protestant friends, some wearing jerseys of the rival
Rangers team, attended the funeral in a show of cross-community
solidarity. All bore the same message on the back in tribute to the
young victim. "Micky Bo RIP" the tops simply said.
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness and party colleague
Philip McGuigan were at the funeral.
After local PSNI police chief Terry Shevlin expressed concern about
retaliation, claiming dissident republicans were active in the town,
Sinn Fein accused the police chief of cynically attempting to provide
justification for the murder.
Philip McGuigan said: "Shevlin has sought to portray the situation
Ballymena as tit-for-tat violence.
"It is nothing of the sort. Shevlin is supposed to be the head of
PSNI in the town.
"His job is supposed to be to protect the public, instead he has
to provide excuses for those who brutally murdered Michael McIlveen
last week. He is a disgrace."
The DUP was also criticised for suggesting the existence of a handful
of tricolour flags and hunger strike posters within a nationalist
housing estate was "republican provocation" for the murder.
"I hear Ian Paisley condemning the murder of Michael McIlveen and
go on to provide justification, whether its about flags, posters or
commemorations," said Mr McGuigan. "There are no excuses for
15-year-old school boy to death."
Despite being invited by the family, DUP leader Ian Paisley failed to
attend the funeral.