A Protestant church leader met murdered Catholic schoolboy Michael McIlveen’s family today – and urged other youths not to risk their lives through pointless sectarian bravado.
Dr Harry Uprichard, the Presbyterian Moderator in Ireland, offered sympathy and expressed revulsion at the killing during his visit to the grieving family’s home in Ballymena, Co Antrim.
Police who believe Michael, 15, was beaten to death because of his religion have charged five teenagers with the murder.
After meeting the McIlveens, Dr Uprichard appealed for an end to the festering sectarian tensions between rival gangs of youths in the town.
He said: “I would say to all young people involved in such activity: ‘Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by those who would persuade you that you are doing something macho by being caught up in this.
“It doesn’t have to be like this. There is something better for you.
“You live in a town which has so much to offer. You have a life which is full of so much potential. You have energy and enthusiasm.
“Use that life wisely. Don’t waste it in a way that brings no benefit to yourself and may even bring harm to others’.”
The clergyman, who was accompanied by Catholic Priest Fr Sean Connolly, pledged to be available to talk with any teenagers who want to talk about their anxieties.
He said he was stunned by the attack on Michael last Sunday as he went with friends to buy a take-away pizza.
“We condemn it and are saddened that such a thing could be done by one human being to another,” Dr Uprichard added.
“I am sure that the Police and other organisations and agencies within our town will be doing all they can to prevent a recurrence of such a tragic incident as we have witnessed this week.”