11 May 2006

Loyalists urged to postpone Ballymena parade

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

Loyalists in Ballymena are planning a massive march past the spot where a Catholic teenager was murdered.
Concerned churchmen in the grief-stricken town yesterday called for the parade to be postponed in order to reduce sectarian tension and as a mark of respect for Michael McIlveen.
The 15-year-old died on Monday after being beaten by a baseball bat-wielding loyalist gang last weekend.
On May 20, the Ballykeel Loyal Sons of Ulster flute band are planning to stage a major late-night march through the town.
More than 1,000 loyalists and 30 bands will take part. The parade will pass close to the area where Michael was attacked.
Church leaders in Ballymena yesterday joined together to call for the parade to be postponed.
Rev Daniel Kane, of the Ballymena West Presbyterian Church, believes such a move would reduce tensions in the town.
He said: “It would be a good idea to postpone this parade. For the good of everyone and as a mark of solidarity with the McIlveen family it is the right thing to do.”
Ballymena priest Fr Paul Symonds, who has been counselling the McIlveen family, said a postponement would be a positive step forward. “The current route will see marchers pass close to the spot where Michael was attacked,” he said.
Loyalists in Ballymena have yet to respond to the church leaders’ calls.
Speaking yesterday, leading Co Antrim loyalist Darren Smyth, who gives political advice to the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), said he was working to reduce sectarian tension in the town.
“We realise tensions are going to be high but we will be striving to do everything in our power to ensure tragic circumstances such as this never happens again.”

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