Taoiseach lays wreath at Enniskillen Poppy Day ceremony

Ireland participates in London ceremony for first time since 1946

 Queen Elizabeth II attends the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, London. Photograph:  Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II attends the annual Remembrance Sunday Service at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, London. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, yesterday joined in Remembrance Day ceremonies in Enniskillen and Belfast to recall those who died in the first World War and other conflicts.

Mr Kenny laid a laurel wreath among the red poppy wreaths at the war memorial in Enniskillen, while Mr Flanagan laid a wreath at the cenotaph in Belfast.

This is the third year in succession that the Taoiseach has travelled to Enniskillen to remember both the dead of the first World War and the 12 people who died and the scores who were injured when an IRA no-warning bomb exploded at the war memorial in the Co Fermanagh town in 1987.

The Poppy Day explosion claimed the lives of 11 people. A 12th victim, Ronnie Hill, died after 13 years in a coma. Among the dead was Marie Wilson, whose father Gordon gave moving testimony about how they held hands together amid the rubble of the bomb as she was dying.

The late Mr Wilson later became a peace campaigner and member of Seanad Éireann.

Poignancy

“But also for me, Enniskillen has a certain poignancy because of the IRA bomb,” said Mr Kenny.

He said he wanted to remember the victims and survivors and people such as Mr Wilson. He added that people had always welcomed him when he visited Enniskillen. “I think it is the mark of a more united people that you have the laurel wreath in the middle of all poppy wreaths here,” he said.

The Taoiseach also welcomed the laying of a wreath at the cenotaph in London by Dan Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador to Britain, the first time this has happened since 1946.

“This is all part of the process of uniting the people both east and west and north and south. And that is very significant,” Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach said he would be happy to come to Enniskillen again next year “if I have the privilege and opportunity of so doing”.

Mr Kenny said he also planned in the future to welcome representatives of groups such as the Royal British Legion and the Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers to Government Buildings.

It is also the third year in a row that an Irish minister for foreign affairs has joined unionist and other politicians as well as members of the Royal British Legion at the cenotaph in Belfast. The former Labour leader and tánaiste Eamon Gilmore laid wreaths at the memorial outside Belfast City Hall in 2012 and 2013.

Mr Flanagan was also joined in Belfast by Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers, the DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson, the SDLP lord mayor of Belfast, Nichola Mallon.

“Today’s ceremony is a chance to reflect on the sad events of 100 years ago, when men and women from all parts of this island and from all traditions left their homes to fight in the first World War,” said Mr Flanagan.

“I was pleased to accept the invitation to participate in today’s ceremony at the Belfast cenotaph and to lay a wreath, on behalf of the Irish Government, to remember all those who died,” he said. “I believe attendance at such commemorations shows respect for all traditions and helps further reconciliation on the island of Ireland and across these islands.”

Mr Flanagan also welcomed Mr Mulhall’s participation at the wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph in London, which was attended by Queen Elizabeth II.

Symbolic

During the queen’s visit to the Republic in 2011, she attended commemorations for both the war dead and those Irish who died fighting against Britain for independence.

Some 200,000 Irish-born soldiers from north and south of the island served in the first World War, with about 50,000 losing their lives.

Queen’s wreath

Senior royals, including second World War veteran the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge joined politicians, military leaders, veterans and serving personnel in laying wreaths of poppies at the monument.

British prime minister David Cameron described this year’s Remembrance Sunday as “particularly poignant” as 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the first World War, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the end of Britain’s 13-year conflict in Afghanistan.

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