By Cian Molloy - 12 November, 2017
A memorial to the victims of the 1987 Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing may yet be permanently located on a site belonging to a Clogher diocesan trust.
Following a series of misleading and unrepresentative newspaper articles, which claimed that the Catholic Church objected to the memorial’s design because it bore a poppy, Clogher’s diocesan administrator Msgr Joseph McGuiness has issued a statement to clarify the situation and the Church’s position.
This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday before the 11th day of the 11th month, which marks the anniversary of the armistice that brought the First World War to an end in November 1918. Ever since, in the United Kingdom and in the British Commonwealth, this has been a day of remembering and honouring those who have died on active duty in the armed services.
“In Enniskillen this will always be a time for a special remembering of the terrible events of 8 November 1987,” said Msgr McGuiness. The IRA bombing at the town’s war memorial 30 years ago killed 11 people and injured 63, most of them elderly.
“This last week has been a time of intense sorrow for the victims of that day,” says the Monsignor’s statement. “The Remembrance Day bombing caused horror and outrage across the community, and left many bearing physical, mental and emotional wounds which they carry to this day. Our thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with them.”
Many in Enniskillen are still in pain because of the events of that day, the diocesan administrator said. “As well as shattering the lives of individuals and families, the bombing also had the potential to create permanent and bitter division within the community here in Enniskillen. That this has not happened is a testament to the generosity of spirit of people and the efforts made by many individuals, community organisations and churches to build relationships in a sensitive and respectful way.”
One way in which people cope with grief and loss is to create memorials to those loved ones that they have lost, and a new memorial to the victims of the 1987 bombing was unveiled last Wednesday. However, there is a question about where it might be located – with the memorial’s organisers proposing that it be located on a plot of land owned by St Michael’s Diocesan Trust, which is near the entrance of the Clinton Centre, a conference centre and art gallery located at the site of bombing.
The Trust has needed time to consider the proposal and because of the delay, Msgr McGuiness says, there has been “much speculation and comment in the media and elsewhere, much of it ill-informed”. The Belfast Telegraph ran a story on the issue captioned: “Poppy on memorial ‘stopping Catholic church’ allowing it on its land”.
However, Msgr McGuiness, who has been diocesan administrator since October last year, says: “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. 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.
“The proposal that the new memorial be sited at the Clinton Centre was first brought to our attention in September 2017, about six weeks ago. The Diocesan Trust willingly agreed to give the proposal full and careful consideration, but made it very clear that the matter couldn’t be resolved in such a short space of time, given the issues which would have to be considered.”
Issues that need to be addressed include: the legal implications of the proposed lease agreement; the fact that the plot is already leased to the Fermanagh University Partnership Board, who are tenants of the Clinton Centre; the obligations of the Trust to the partnership board; plus normal health and safety considerations.
Added to this, when President Bill Clinton last visited the centre that bears his name, he announced that it is planned to expand the venue – and changes to the building may well have implications for the siting of the memorial.
“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 Msgr McGuiness.
And he added: “There has been some suggestion that the Diocesan Trust had a problem with the symbol of the poppy on the memorial. This is quite untrue. Until the memorial was unveiled last Wednesday, the Trust was not aware of what was to be on the memorial and has never expressed any view on this.
“The suggestion has also been made that the Trust or the Parish of Saint Michael’s were responsible for the removal of the memorial after the unveiling ceremony. This is also untrue. Given that a permanent site for the memorial has yet to be found, arrangements for its care were and are rightly in the hands of the organisers, in consultation with the PSNI.
“None of us wish to add in any way to the pain of all who have suffered so dreadfully over the last 30 years. Their grief and hurt must be respected. Neither should we cease to continue the work of reconciliation and healing in our community in a way that draws people together in genuine and mutual respect. May the Lord be with us and may His Spirit sustain our efforts.”