LAUGHTER OF OUR CHILDREN?
Brutal sectarian murder of 15-year-old boy
A schoolboy savagely beaten in a sectarian attack in Ballymena on Saturday died in hospital on Monday night.
Two men were arrested in connection with the assault, which is now being treated as a murder inquiry.
While it was known 15-year-old Michael McIlveen was in critical condition, the death has still come as a shock.
Michael, a local Catholic boy, was with friends when they were chased from an entertainment complex in the town after getting a takeaway pizza.
They scattered, but the teenager could not escape and was set upon. He was battered by a gang of unionist thugs, who cornered him and used a baseball bat before stamping on his head.
The full extent of his injuries was only discovered after he managed to make his way home.
He was taken from his house in the Dunvale estate to Antrim Area Hospital where his family maintained a bedside vigil until his life support machine was switched off at around 8pm on Monday night.
The assault is one of a number of recent attacks on nationalists in Ballymena, a predominantly Protestant town which is the home town of the DUP's Ian Paisley.
Speaking this afternoon before his condition deteriorated, Philip McGuigan, Sinn Féin assembly member for North Antrim, said there had been a number of attacks of a sectarian nature.
"Action is needed now to avoid further acts like this and the kind of summer we had last year."
Ballymena has come to displace nearby Larne as the town with most sectarian reputation in the North. Two weeks ago, Michael's 20-year-old friend Kirk McCaughern was stabbed. Tensions in the town was said to be at a new high following the latest attack.
Nationalist representatives had warned in recent months that lives would be lost if the sectarian attacks in the area continued.
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. 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.
Numerous petrol and paint-bomb attacks were carried out on Our Lady's Church in Harryville throughout last summer, and it is feared there could be similar attacks thiss summer. The church has been the scene of two unionist paramilitary blockades in the past decade.
Windows were smashed at the front of the Conway family home on the village's main street in the early hours of Sunday morning.