Civic leaders in a town in the North were tonight urged to come together and make a stand against sectarianism in the wake of the murder of a 14-year-old Catholic schoolboy.
The call was issued by Sinn Féin chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, after he met the family of Michael McIlveen who died on Monday from wounds sustained in a horrific beating in Ballymena, County Antrim at the weekend.
Mr McGuinness, who earlier today was confirmed as Sinn Féin’s candidate to become the next Deputy First Minister in the new Northern Ireland Assembly, described the killing as needless and unjustifiable.
The Mid-Ulster MP said: “We are over 10 years into a peace process.
“Sectarian hatred in our society must be tackled and dealt with.
“Ballymena has obviously been in the headlines in recent years as Catholic churches, homes and businesses have seen regular attacks.
“The murder of young Michael McIlveen has brought matters to a head.
“No longer can civic leaders in Ballymena turn a blind eye. No more can civic society in the town ignore this problem.
“I am calling publicly today for all civic, community and political leaders in Ballymena to come together and organise a mobilisation against sectarianism in our society in memory of Michael to ensure that this needless and unjustifiable sectarian killing is the last.
“Sinn Féin will stand side by side with any unionist politician in challenging sectarianism within this society.”
Mr McGuiness issued his call as police claimed up to 30 people could help identify Michael’s killers if they came forward with information
Detectives said they believed the victim and his two friends were chased from the car park at the IMC Cinema on the Larne Road to the spot where the teenager was battered.
“It is believed that there were up to 30 people in the IMC car-park between 11.30pm Saturday and 1.00am and police need these people to come forward as they may have vital information,” the spokesman said.
“They should contact the murder incident room as a matter of urgency on 02825 667 280,” he said.