A WEST BELFAST family have spoken of their devastation after their daughter’s grave was desecrated for a second time in the space of a fortnight.
30-year-old mother-of-two Louise McIIwaine tragically passed away after sustaining a fatal head injury following a seizure in January 2017.
The Andersonstown News highlighted the story of the passing of the popular hairdresser. Louise’s two boys, 11-year-old Tom and seven-year-old Martin, were recipients of our Inspirational Youth Awards in November of that year.
Speaking from their Lenadoon home Louise’s parents Martin and Marguerite said they were “heartbroken” to learn on Monday morning that the grave, in Milltown Cemetery, had been attacked again.
“Both times Louise’s grave has been attacked on a Sunday night,” explained Martin, “the first incident was two weeks ago and myself and Marguerite put it down to sheer vandalism. We rearranged everything that had been wrecked and didn’t tell the two boys what had happened to save them any distress. We have spent the last two weeks replacing an ornate slate, which has Louise’s photograph on it, all the flowers that had been ripped up and the gifts and teddy bears from the boys so that the grave was as it should be.
“When we got the call on Monday to say the grave had been wrecked again the pain reminded me of the day we actually buried Louise,” he said.
Martin and Marguerite said they wanted to make the public aware of what was going on in the cemetery.
“We decided we would have to sit Louise’s boys down and explain that someone had vandalised their mother’s grave and destroyed everything. The looks on both their two faces would’ve brought tears out of stone,” said Martin. “They kept asking ‘was this smashed?’ ‘Was that smashed?’ It was like reliving the day of having to tell them their mother had died, the tears were running down their wee faces and they just kept asking ‘why would anybody do this?’”
The McIIwaine family described those who attacked their daughter’s grave as “spineless lowlifes”.
“We tend to and visit Louise’s grave everyday,” said Marguerite. “Confront us if you have a grudge against any member of our family, tell us why you have done this. Tell us why you have done this against two young boys who loved and lost their mum. We attend Louise’s grave everyday with love and pride.”
Martin and Marguerite called on the Catholic Church whose ownership of Milltown Cemetery comes under their remit, to update and provide proper CCTV throughout the area.
“This needs to be done immediately,” said Martin. “Other families can not go through what we are. The PSNI came out to Louise’s grave and removed all the damaged items for forensic analysis, they phoned us on Tuesday saying they were going to step up more routine patrols. We are just absolutely devastated by what has happened.”
Community activist and close friend of the McIIwaine family Pádraic Mac Coitir condemned the attack on Louise’s grave and said those behind it “need to have a serious look at themselves”.
“Martin and Marguerite, the family, have been left tramautised by this. No family should have to go through what they have been this past fortnight.”
The McIlwaine family said they wanted to thank all those friends and close family members who have rallied around them since the distressing incident occurred.
“Family and friends have been calling to the house offering to help, offering to go to the cemetery at night and patrol it to find those responsible. We are asking for the public’s help on helping us by providing any information so that those responsible can be brought to justice. People have been calling to leave new floral arrangements, it has meant a lot to have their support,” said Martin.
West Belfast MP Paul Maskey described those behind the attack on Louise’s grave as “the lowest of the low”.
“My heart goes out to the McIlwaine family and I would urge whoever is behind this wanton vandalism to stop and stop immediately. We all have family members buried, whether it is in Milltown or the City Cemetery, and those graves must be respected. What has happened here is totally uncalled for, it’s horrendous and I would urge people to come forward with any information about this to the relevant agencies either the PSNI or Milltown staff. We all need to stand with the McIIwaine family and show our support to them. Attacks such as this will not be tolerated in this community.”