18 May 2006

Michael was latest in a sad litany of sectarian murder victims: Bishop

Belfast Telegraph

By Debra Douglas
18 May 2006

Schoolboy Michael McIlveen was murdered by people whose lives have been scarred by growing up in an atmosphere polluted by sectarian hatred, mourners at his funeral were told.

Addressing around 1,000 mourners at the popular teenager's funeral in Ballymena yesterday, Bishop of Down and Connor, the Most Reverend Patrick Walsh, said Michael joined the "long, sad litany of those murdered by sectarian hatred".

He said: "Over my years as Bishop in this diocese, I have presided at the funerals of so many victims of murder, many of them, like Michael, young people - murdered by people, often young people, whose own lives have been scarred by growing up in an atmosphere polluted by sectarian hatred."

Bishop Walsh said it was vital that those who had condemned the brutal murder of the Catholic teenager join together as one.

"There must be a united voice, a united voice which does not stop short with condemnation of murder, which is, of course, the ultimate depravity, but a united voice which must be heard on issues of justice, of equality, of rights - issues which must be, which are, the concern of the entire community," he said.

"There must be a united voice condemning all manifestations of sectarianism: graffiti; murals; the painting of kerbs to mark out territory; proclaiming this is a 'no go' area for the other side; the flaunting of flags, including the disrespectful flaunting of national flags; provocative marches - one could go on and on."

His sentiments were echoed by Father Paul Symonds who said Michael's brutal murder won't have been in vain if it leads to a new vision for Ballymena and for Northern Ireland.

Describing his death as "wanton murder", he said it was important not to cling to the past.

"The challenge now is to open ourselves to the influence of his death," he said.

"Even in the past week there have been signs of new relationships, dialogue between those who formerly would not speak to each other, a reaching out of love across the divide.

"The McIlveen family have been deeply touched by the wave of sympathy and compassion which has come to them from Protestants, not only from neighbours near and far, but also from the Protestant churches.

"We must grasp this opportunity of a new beginning, aware that cynical and negative voices will try to stifle the good that God can bring from the evil of Michael's death."

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