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Family ‘numb with grief’ at loss of child

By Evan Short

The family of the five year old boy killed in a road accident on the Oldpark on Wednesday have said they are “numb” with grief at the death of their beloved child.

Rosehead boy Conor O’Neill died on Wednesday morning after being knocked down by a car as he rode his bike near his Oldpark home.

A family member who spoke to the North Belfast News this morning (Thursday) said everyone was in total shock at the tragedy but were being supported by the local community.

And, as devastated parents left their children off to Conor’s school, Holy Cross Boys this morning, they stopped and joined in prayer for the child and his family. Local community representatives and sports clubs also added their condolences to the well-known local family.

“We are still numb at such a tragic accident,” said the family spokesman.   “Conor was bubbly, such a bubbly child, very mischievous but absolutely loving.”

He added that neighbours and friends were being a great support to Conor’s father Kevin, his mother Ciara, his older brother Kevin and little sister Cara Rose.

“From it has happened the community has rallied around to offer their support and that’s been appreciated,” he said.

Conor was a P1 pupil at Holy Cross Boys School and on Thursday morning devastated parents in the schoolyard gathered for a spontaneous open air prayer service.

Principal Kevin McArevey said a great sadness had gripped the entire school community.

“The shock and sadness this morning was almost tangible. I went into the yard to address parents as they dropped the kids off and you could almost feel the shock and horror.

“I spoke to them about Conor. Having children of their own it was easy to empathise.

“Conor’s family will have a big support network in the community and we all said a prayer in the schoolyard in unison which is unusual.”

Kevin said the school had immediately implemented a strategy to ensure the children have support over the next difficult few weeks.

“Myself and the Vice Principal Chris Donnelly went around the school addressing the pupils yesterday. With some of the younger ones it kind of washes over them, but some said they would miss Conor. We have our sensory room up and running and psychologists from the Belfast Education and Library Board (BELB) will be on hand should there be any kickbacks in the next couple of weeks.

“The BELB, CCMS and NSPCC are all providing support,” he said.

A spokesman for the BELB confirmed they had been liaising with the school.

“The Critical Incident Team, headed up by educational psychologists, was on hand to provide support and advice to the school and there will be ongoing support if the school needs it.”

The family are well known in the area through their links with Ardoyne Working Men’s Club football team. Conor’s grandfather Stephen Mailey is chairman and his uncle, Brendan Mailey, is the team’s longest serving player. Conor’s father Kevin also played for the team.

Gerard Frame from the club said everyone was in shock and wanted to pass on their condolences.

“It’s an awful thing to happen, especially to someone so young. Everyone is in shock and we just want to send our sympathy to Kevin and the family.”

Conor’s remains will be brought to Holy Cross Church for 10am Requiem Mass                                                           on Saturday, with burial afterwards in Carnmoney Cemetery.


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