06 June 2006

Garden for Michael to be place of healing

05 June 2006

Family and friends of murdered Ballymena schoolboy Michael McIlveen gathered on Saturday to stage a football tournament and fun day to raise money towards a memorial garden close to his home.

Sean McIlveen, uncle of the 15-year-old Catholic who died on May 8 a day after being attacked in the centre of the County Antrim town, said they want the garden to be a place of remembrance and also a place of healing.

"We want the garden set up in memory of Michael but also want it to act as a symbol of cross-community reconciliation to try and bring both sides of the community together," he said.

Family friend, Lynsey McCrudden (24), one of the main organisers of the fundraising event, said: "We want the garden to show that no one should have to die like Michael did and hopefully it will help prevent others dying."

The fun day included a soccer tournament on a football court close to Michael's Dunvale home which was a place where he was often found playing with friends. Hundreds of local people were present at the Fun Day.

On Saturday Michael's friends were playing matches for special trophies in his name.

Sean McIlveen said: "Beside the football court there is some unused ground and that would be an ideal spot for the memorial garden."

Lynsey McCrudden said: "We want the garden to have a tree, a bench and a plaque and we also looking at the possibility of getting a plaque at the place where Michael was attacked."

Later in the summer another Fun Day, this time free for children in the area, is planned for the Dunclug estate.

Meanwhile Sean McIlveen has already been in contact with Glasgow Celtic captain, Lurgan's Neil Lennon, who said he would speak to Barry Ferguson, captain of arch-rivals Rangers about getting involved in a fundraising gesture.

In the days after Michael's death his friends, from both sides of the community united in grief and the words 'MickyBo RIP' - after Michael's nickname - were printed up on Celtic and Rangers shirts.

Friends wearing Celtic and Rangers jerseys helped carry his coffin on the day of his funeral in a powerful image which touched officials of the teams in Glasgow.

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