The unionist leader said the killing, “illustrates the distance we still have to travel as a society to what could be described as normality.”
The murder was, indeed, a reminder of the sectarian poison that continues to warp Northern Irish society.
Michael McIlveen went out for pizza late at night. Just after midnight on Sunday morning he appears to have been chased into an alley by a group who beat him with a baseball bat and, according to a bereaved family member, “jumped on his head.” He died in hospital on Monday evening.
At time of going to press, police in Northern Ireland are questioning four adults and a juvenile about the assault. The police have stated their clear belief that Michael McIlveen’s killers acted from a sectarian motive.
The murder is exactly the kind of event that is too often overlooked in the international media. While it is true that Northern Ireland has made great strides in the past decade, it should not be forgotten that daily life, for many of its citizens, continues to be characterized by sectarian enmity, intimidation and the threat of violence.
Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the McIlveen murder dragged the region “back to the dark days of the past.”
We have no quarrel with the general tenor of Hain’s remark. But let’s not forget that in many areas of Northern Ireland the dark days of bigotry and intolerance have never really gone.
For the sake of the people who must deal with that darkness every day, it is imperative that the peace process is seen through to its full conclusion.