Kenny, Gilmore honour war dead
Taoiseach Enda Kenny today laid a laurel wreath in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, in remembrance of the victims of an IRA bomb attack on Poppy Day in 1987.
Mr Kenny laid a laurel wreath at the cenotaph, metres from where the no-warning bomb exploded as people gathered for the traditional remembrance service. Twelve people died as result of the bomb and 60 were injured. No one has ever been convicted of the murders.
He stood head bowed during two minutes of silence before taking his turn to lay a wreath on the war memorial near the spot where the IRA bomb exploded.
His green laurel wreath laid on behalf of the Irish Government stood out among wreaths of red poppies. He did not wear a poppy.
Mr Kenny said Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland last year as guest of former president Mary McAleese had closed a circle of history and laid the foundations for much closer relations between the Republic and the UK for the future.
“This is a historic day both in reality and symbolically,” said the Taoiseach. “The visit of Her Majesty to Ireland last year - the first of a reigning monarch in 100 years - closed a circle of history and set in place the platform upon which future much closer relations between the peoples north south and the people of our two islands can actually happen.”
During a day long visit to Enniskillen, Mr Kenny had a private meeting with some of those bereaved in the 1987 bomb, attended a religious service at St McCartin’s Cathedral addressed by former Church of Ireland primate Lord Robin Eames and met veterans from both the Irish and British armies.
One of those Mr Kenny met was Joan Wilson, whose daughter Marie died in the bomb. She said the Taoiseach’s visit was very important in the journey to peace and reconciliation. “We must all work toward that,” she said afterwards. “He encouraged us.”
There was only one apparent discordant note struck during the day of events when a man briefly called out a heckle while Lord Eames addressed the congregation inside St McCartin’s.
Mr Kenny said he found the day “very powerful”.
“Today is an important day symbolically and it’s the start of building on the platform brought to a conclusion last year by former President McAleese and Queen Elizabeth and we hope to continue to build on that for the future” The Taoiseach agreed to return to Enniskillen to meet the bereaved families again to discuss their ongoing campaign for justice.
Later, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore became the first Irish Government minister to take part in Remembrance Day service in Belfast.
Mr Gilmore was joined by Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson at the cenotaph in Belfast.
Peter Robinson said the remembrance services in Northern Ireland were touched with added poignancy given the recent dissident republican murder of prison guard David Black in Co Armagh and the death of Co Down Army medic Channing Day while serving in Afghanistan.
“Remembrance Sunday is a time for reflection and for gratitude as we remember the debt we owe to those who gave their lives in the service of their country in the two World Wars and in more recent conflicts,” he said.
Mr Gilmore addressed the SDLP party conference in Armagh yesterday evening. Today, he took part in an event honouring Britain’s war dead hosted by Belfast City Council and laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in the city. He was also visiting west Belfast to meet local community groups.
Later, he will later attend the All-Island Schools Choir Competition sponsored by Cooperation Ireland and RTE and supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Reconciliation Fund. He and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will present the prize to the winning choir.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said Mr Gilmore’s visit to Belfast was “an opportunity to underline the Irish Government’s support for reconciliation in Northern Ireland”.
President Michael D Higgins attended a remembrance service in St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin this afternoon.
Some 50,000 Irish men who enlisted in the British army died in the first World War. The Government this year pardoned about 5,000 soldiers who deserted the Irish Army during the second World War.