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Drowned Syrian boys to be honoured in memorial garden

By Staff Reporter

Published 11/09/2015

John McGarvey and Andrea McAleese with the stars to remember Aylan and Galip Kurdi
John McGarvey and Andrea McAleese with the stars to remember Aylan and Galip Kurdi
A Turkish police officer carries the body of little Aylan Kurdi

The two little brothers fleeing the war in Syria whose bodies washed up on a Turkish beach will be remembered at a permanent memorial in Northern Ireland.

Photographs of three-year-old Kurdish boy Aylan Kurdi, whose body was discovered on the shore with his brother Galip (5) after they tried to sail to Europe, touched the hearts of people across the world.

Now the young refugees' short lives will be commemorated at a special garden of remembrance for children in Co Londonderry.

The Angel Of Hope garden was officially opened in Coleraine only recently.

But those behind it were so moved by the deaths of the two brothers they have put up special stars containing their names to ensure their memory lives on.

The garden was built as a place where parents who have lost children can remember them, their names being displayed on specially commissioned stars.

The image of the limp body of Aylan brought home the reality of the refugee crisis as millions flee the violence in the Middle East.

He and his brother died alongside their mum Rehan attempting to find a better life.

The memorial garden was founded by Coleraine hairdresser Andrea McAleese (43), mother of three-year-old Roma, who died in a car accident outside their home in 2009.

"He was the same age as my daughter when she died and it just reminds me of when I ran out of the house and saw my daughter lying on the road. It is just the same," said Andrea.

"This garden is for everyone regardless of religion, culture, colour of your skin - a child is a child. I was of a generation brought up in the Troubles and plenty of people fled our country to get a better life, and that is what the Syrian people are doing. So in Northern Ireland I feel we know what that is like. People from the local ethnic forum have been speaking to people from the Syrian community about this and they are overwhelmed that people from here are doing this. The Syrian community are delighted people have done this for them."

John McGarvey ( 51) from Castlerock is also involved with the Angel Of Hope garden.

His daughter Kelly (30) went for a walk with her dog on New Year's Day 2014, a wet, windy day, and was found dead at the bottom of cliffs at Downhill.

Her family believes she died in a bid to save her dog after it fell. The dog had to be put down because it had broken bones.

John said: "When I saw on TV that wee chap getting lifted off the beach it brought it back to me about identifying my own child on the beach.

"It brought it all back to me, and when I asked Andrea what she thought about putting stars up, she said it was a great idea."

Elaine Patrick (43), treasurer of the Causeway Multi-Cultural Forum, said: "We thought this was a lovely gesture and it was nice that maybe children who do not get recognised elsewhere are getting recognised here."

Her husband Jude Patrick (42), originally from Malaysia, said: "I think this is good, because at the end of the day it is the death of a child; a soul has been lost. This is humanity at work."

Belfast Telegraph

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