Leo Varadkar says he wants poppy and lily ‘side by side’

Catholic diocesan trust says it has no objection to Enniskillen victims memorial

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has spoken of his dream where the poppy, the shamrock and the Easter lily could be worn "side by side".

Mr Varadkar, who laid a laurel wreath at the war memorial in Enniskillen on Sunday morning, said he travelled to the Co Fermanagh town to pay respects to the dead of the first World War and other wars and also to remember the twelve who died as a result of the 1987 IRA Poppy Day bombing.

Mr Varadkar was following in the footsteps of former Fine Gael taoiseach Enda Kenny who attended the 25th anniversary commemoration of the Enniskillen bombing and all commemorations subsequently up to last year.

The Taoiseach said the day was particularly poignant as this was the 30th anniversary of the Enniskillen bombing in which 11 people were killed with a 12th victim, Ronnie Hill, who was in a coma, dying 13 years later.


Mr Varadkar wore his shamrock poppy which he displayed in the Dáil earlier this week as did Fine Gael senator Frank Feighan, who also attended the commemoration.

The Taoiseach said the shamrock poppy was designed in particular to remember and show respect for the many Irish people who died in the Great War. “We should not forget that they came from many backgrounds, from the North and the South, Catholic and Protestant and fought for different reasons,” he said.

“The dream I have is for an Ireland in the future where the poppy, the shamrock and the lily can lie side by side and I think it is good to have those kind of dreams,” added Mr Varadkar.

The Taoiseach when later speaking to members of the Enniskillen Royal British Legion quoted from Willie Redmond, the Irish nationalist MP who was killed in the war in 1917. In one of his last letters home he wrote, “It would be a fine memorial to the men who died if we could over their graves build up a bridge between North and South.”

The DUP leader Arlene Foster and Northern Secretary James Brokenshire, who also attended the ceremony, welcomed Mr Varadkar's attendance.

They also condemned the planting of a device in Omagh which forced the cancellation of the town’s Remembrance Day ceremony.

PSNI chief constable George Hamilton, who was also in Enniskillen, said the disruption was “sickening” particularly as it was Omagh where in 1998 a dissident republican bombing killed 29 people including a woman pregnant with twin girls.

New memorial

Meanwhile, Catholic parishioners were told in Enniskillen that there is no objection to a new memorial to the 1987 bomb victims being located at church property at the bomb site.

The memorial bearing the names of the 12 who died was unveiled in Enniskillen on Wednesday on the calendar anniversary of the bombing.

However, it was taken away by forklift later in the day and put into temporary storage because those behind the project did not have permission to locate it permanently at the Clinton Centre, the site of the bombing.

The centre is owned by the local Catholic St Michael’s Diocesan Trust which has not yet made a decision on whether to grant such permission.

However, a letter was read out at weekend Masses in the Enniskillen area from Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, administrator of the Diocese of Clogher, saying the church and the trust did not object to the memorial.

“I want to state firmly that the Diocesan Trust has no objection whatsoever to a permanent memorial being erected to the victims of the Enniskillen bombing,” he said.

“The creation of a public memorial is both a way of providing solace and comfort to those who grieve, and also a way of drawing the community together in remembrance and solidarity,” he added.

Mgr McGuinness said permission was only sought in late September but before a definitive response could be issued a number of practical issues had to be addressed.

These included health and safety matters and lease arrangements.

“From all this I hope it is clear that, contrary to some comments being made, the Diocesan Trust is not trying to be in any way obstructive, but rather has had to begin to address complex issues which have only recently been posed to it,” said Mgr McGuinness.

“In doing so, the Trust is being conscientious in discharging its obligations, both as a church body and a charitable trust,” he added.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times