Councils backs angel garden

Andrea McAleese, with a picture of her beloved daughter Roma who died five years ago, at the site where an Angel of Hope  Memorial Garden will be situated beside the Coleraine Borough Council offices on the Portstewart Road. PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

Andrea McAleese, with a picture of her beloved daughter Roma who died five years ago, at the site where an Angel of Hope Memorial Garden will be situated beside the Coleraine Borough Council offices on the Portstewart Road. PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

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An emotional mother told Coleraine councillors about the ‘second her world fell apart’ when her three year old daughter was tragically killed five years ago.

Andrea McAleese’s little daughter Roma, was knocked down and killed near her home at Ashdale Park in Coleraine back in March 2009.

At last Tuesday’s council meeting, Andrea, accompanied by ‘angel mums’ and ‘Angel of Hope’ committee members, made an emotional appeal to council members in a bid to gain land, situated just in front of Cloonavin, for a garden, called the ‘Angel of Hope Memorial Garden’.

Council members later made the decision ‘in committee’ to lease the land to the group to enable them to commence work on the garden.

Andrea told the meeting that when she floated the idea about the memorial garden on facebook last year, 2,000 people had shown their support in just 24 hours.

The meeting heard that to date £45,000 had been raised, and that architect Stephen Todd had designed the garden for free. Members heard that the memorial garden would be a place where parents could meet ‘to help each other through the pain’.

“The garden will be a place to go, a happy place, where we can keep memories alive,” said Andrea.

Holding back the tears, Andrea said that she has visited her daughter’s grave every day since her death. Andrea admitted that even when she was in hospital attached to a drip, she made the journey to the cemetery just to be near her little daughter.

“The cemetery closes at 8pm, so mums wishing to be close to their children have no where to go, and that’s the idea behind this garden,” said Andrea.

Mark Pollock, Chairman, told councillors that a limited company had been set up, and a management team to ensure that the project is managed properly. He explained: “Sadly the membership of the group will grow as parents continue to experience loss.”

Supporting the project, SDLP councillor Stephanie Quigley paid tribute to Andrea: “From your place of pain you have shown great courage and incredible passion for those who have suffered as you have in the loss of you beautiful daughter Roma.”

Alliance councillor Barney Fitzpatrick was also moved by the presentation, he described the garden as ‘a garden of angels’.

UUP councillor David Harding also paid tribute to Andrea on her ‘moving presentation’, he said: “In the face of tragedy it is easy to be overwhelmed, but you have done something for the community in Coleraine.”

DUP councillor Trevor Clarke, who has been working with the committee added: “You are looking nothing from us, except for a piece of unused land. This garden is a means of healing some of the hurt.