08 May 2006

Sectarian & Murderous

Daily Ireland

TEENAGER ‘critical’ on Life-support machine after Loyalists attack him in town centre - Tinderbox atmosphere in area as frightened residents ask politicians to show leadership

By Connla Young
8 May 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usA deadly assault on Catholic youth prompts fears of another summer of hate in the North.
A teenager was in critical condition last night after being savagely beaten by loyalists early yesterday.
The family of 16-year-old Michael McIlveen gathered at his bedside at Antrim Area Hospital last night after doctors warned that the teenager was not expected to survive the night.
The former St Patrick’s College student was placed on a life-support machine hours after being attacked by a gang of loyalist youths at Garfield Place in Ballymena at around 12.30am yesterday.
A hospital spokesman described the young man’s condition as “critical”.
Daily Ireland understands that the teenager was chased by loyalists after visiting a Ballymena cinema on Saturday night.
After being caught and beaten, the attack victim made his way to a neighbour’s house. He later returned to his Dunclug home, where he complained of being unwell. It is understood his condition deteriorated and an ambulance was called.
Locals said that, after attacking the teenager, the loyalist gang had attacked a Catholic-owned home in the Granville Drive area of the town.
The PSNI said the force was “investigating a motive for the attack” on Michael McIlveen.
Two men were arrested in connection with the assault (**now four). Police said the men were assisting them with their inquiries.
Philip McGuigan, Sinn Féin assembly member for North Antrim, said there was no doubt that the attack was sectarian.
“There have been a number of attacks of a sectarian nature but it seems this is going to have very serious consequences for the young lad involved. People are going to lose their lives unless political leadership is shown across the board. Action is needed now to avoid further acts like this and the kind of summer we had last year.”
Ballymena SDLP councillor Declan O’Loan said he had no doubt the attack was sectarian.
“This is a terrible tragedy and I want to extend my sympathy to the family, who I know are in a deep sense of shock. I would urge everybody in the community to show a level of restraint. Any public disorder could lead to further tragedy. I hope the full facts of the situation are issued publicly. I have been worried something like this would happen in Ballymena,” said Mr O’Loan.
In an attempt to manage the potential fall-out from the attack on Michael McIlveen, senior PSNI officers briefed members of the local District Policing Partnership and elected representatives in the town yesterday.
Tensions in the town’s Dunclug estate were said to be on a knife edge last night. There was a large security force presence in the area.

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Two weeks ago, Michael McIlveen’s 20-year-old friend Kirk McCaughern was stabbed after an altercation in the centre of Ballymena.
As he recovered at home from his injuries, Mr McCaughern told Daily Ireland he believed his attackers had tried to kill him because was a Catholic.
The PSNI later charged Mr McCaughern in relation to the incident that had led to his stabbing. To date, no one has been charged with stabbing or assaulting Mr McCaughern.
Nationalist representatives in the bitterly divided town have warned in recent months that lives could be put in danger if the sectarian attacks in the area continue.
Last year, dozens of attacks were registered against Catholic-owned property in the Ballymena area. Paint bombers targeted several churches in the district, and arsonists attacked two Catholic schools.
In nearby Aghogill, several Catholic residents were forced to flee their homes after being singled out in loyalist arson attacks.
Last July, Kathleen McCaughey had to flee her family home of 50 years. Less than a month later, a close family relative fled her home in the loyalist village after arsonists had torched it.
In an unprecedented move, the PSNI handed out fire blankets and smoke alarms to Catholic families in the district last August in case firebombers attacked. Residents were told days later that they were under threat from loyalist paramilitaries.
Numerous petrol and paint-bomb attacks were carried out on Our Lady’s Church in Harryville throughout last summer. The church has been the scene of two loyalist blockades in the past decade.
Tensions were so high in the town last September that the local parish priest postponed Mass.
At the height of the attacks in August, the PSNI launched a special operation to protect Catholic-owned property in the area. Operation Striker covered 50 Catholic-owned houses, churches, schools and GAA sports grounds.

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