Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Wednesday, 17 May 2006 11:31 UK

Funeral service for murdered boy

Michael's mother Gina carried his coffin
Michael's mother Gina carried his coffin

The funeral of murdered 15-year-old Michael McIlveen is taking place in his home town of Ballymena.

The Catholic teenager died last Monday, the day after being attacked by a gang.

Catholic and Protestant friends are expected to wear Celtic and Rangers jerseys in a guard of honour in a show of cross-community unity.

More than 1,000 people are attending the funeral in the town. Earlier, the dead boy's uncle said there was "no room for bitterness".

Father Paul Symonds said community reconciliation would be a main theme in his homily.

"The family have been deeply moved by the love and concern shown to them," said the priest.

"They have shown a wonderful example.

"Throughout this whole time I have never heard one tiny word of recrimination or condemnation - they have borne their grief with incredible dignity."

He said that Michael had "lived a life which embraced all sides in the community".

Michael McIlveen died after being attacked in Ballymena
Michael McIlveen died after being attacked in Ballymena

People had been calling at the family home from early on Wednesday morning.

In the front garden, there are flowers and wreaths spelling out "son", "grandson" and "Micky-Bo" - the dead boy's nickname.

The cortege made its way to All Saints Church in Ballymena.

On Wednesday, Michael's uncle, Francis, said the family were determined something positive should come out of the tragedy.

"There is no room for bitterness, no hatred, of course my sister has just lost her child, she's not a happy mother," he said.

"If they can learn anything from Michael's death it is to show people they need to wise up and get a grip of themselves. We don't want another family going through the exact same thing."

'Sad day'

DUP leader Ian Paisley visited the family on Sunday and prayed with them. He has been represented at the funeral by DUP Mayor of Ballymena Tommy Nicholl.

Mr Nicholl appealed to people to fall behind him "on the road to a healing process".

"I wanted to show the revulsion that is shown throughout the entire Ballymena community, from both sections, about what has happened," he said.

Mr Nicholl said he was attending with the blessing of Mr Paisley, who is attending a debate in the House of Commons.

During Requiem Mass at All Saints Catholic Church, there will be readings by a number of Michael's schoolfriends.

The church is a short distance from the car park at Garfield Place where Michael was attacked.

His school, St Patrick's College in Ballymena, is closed on Wednesday as a mark of respect.

Coffin being brought into Michael McIlveen's family home
Michael's uncles carried the coffin into the house

Six teenagers are currently in custody, charged with his murder.

Police have stepped up patrols in the town in recent days over fears of revenge attacks.

Meanwhile, a loyalist band in Ballymena is to voluntarily re-route a parade in the town this weekend.

Ballykeel Loyal Sons of Ulster flute band's parade on Saturday night had been due to pass close to the car park where Michael was attacked and beaten.



SEE ALSO
Reprisal fears over boy's murder
16 May 06 |  Northern Ireland
Hundreds mourn murdered schoolboy
15 May 06 |  Northern Ireland

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