The family of a Portadown FC youth player caught up in a storm over unsavoury comments about Oscar Knox have pleaded for forgiveness for their son.
In a statement they asked that “he too is shown love and compassion, and that in time, people will forgive his cruel words”.
Michael Bunting was one of two Lurgan secondary schoolboys caught up in controversy after they made vile comments on Twitter about five-year-old Mallusk youngster Oscar Knox - who died after a battle against cancer.
Both have been interviewed by police and have issued apologies to the Knox family.
Michael’s family said, “As a family, we would like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt sorrow at the impact that our son’s words/actions have had on so many people, and in particular of course, the pain and hurt that they must have caused to the Knox family.
“Michael is a child, who has up until now, been a good boy and we were proud to call him our son. Therefore we were every bit as shocked, saddened and horrified, just as the rest of society, to see the message that he posted on a social networking site. This action cannot be justified in any way, nor are we trying to excuse or condone it.
“We admit that Michael has done wrong and would like to publicly apologise to the Knox family.”
They went on, “He made a thoughtless and cruel comment, which has resulted in public outrage, and ultimately then, in him being taught a very important lesson. We in no way want to make light of what he has said, and believe us when we say that we have discussed at length with him the irreparable hurt that he has caused.
“This being said though, we are satisfied, as his parents, that the public apology, which he himself has already published, is totally genuine. He is heartbroken by all the suffering he has caused, as we all are, and we can assure you that we will guarantee that nothing like this will ever happen again.
“We will, however as his family, continue to love and support him as we have always done. We truly believed that we had brought him up to show love and compassion to all, and in what he said, he failed to illustrate this. In the future, we sincerely hope that he will grow in knowledge, understanding and maturity and that someday he will prove himself to be the good person that we know he can be, and aspires to be.
“In return, we ask that he too is shown love and compassion, and that in time, people will forgive his cruel words, accepting that it was a massive mistake, which will never be repeated.”
The family of Eoin McCluskey said, “We would firstly like to extend our deepest condolences to the Knox family... and for any undue distress this has caused... We cannot condone what was said and are shocked and saddened by it.
“Our son has accepted full responsibility and is facing consequences for his actions through which we as a family will support him.”
Portadown FC said they had suspended a player pending further investigations: “This behaviour is totally unacceptable to everyone at Portadown FC, as we share the grief and loss of this tragic young man’s short life, following his brave battle.”