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Catholic Church `has no objection whatsoever' to a permanent memorial to Enniskillen bomb victims

After the unveiling the new memorial was removed and put into storage. Picture by Justin Kernoghan

THE diocesan administrator for Clogher has stepped into the row over a monument to the victims of the 1987 Enniskillen bombing - insisting the Catholic Church "has no objection whatsoever" to a permanent memorial.

In a statement, Monsignor Joseph McGuinness sought to clarify the church's position after the memorial was wheeled away within hours of being unveiled at a service to mark the 30th anniversary of the bombing on Wednesday.

Organisers want the memorial to be placed at the Clinton Centre's entrance - land that is held by St Michael's Diocesan Trust.

The senior cleric insisted the 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".

He rejected the suggestion that the Church "had a problem with the symbol of the poppy on the memorial" as "quite untrue", saying it "never expressed any view on this".

Mgr McGuinness insisted that the Church was not responsible for the removal, saying because "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".

"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."

Mgr McGuinness said the proposed placement "was first brought to our attention in September 2017" by organisers, the Ely Centre.

On Thursday, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council said: "The applicant has indicated on the planning application form that he has served notice on three parties on the 9 January 2017. One of these is St Michaels Diocesan Trust."

But, Mgr McGuinness said the application was submitted by organisers "six weeks ago... to negotiate a lease of a portion of the land at the front of the Clinton Centre with a view to placing the memorial there".

"The hope was expressed that the Trust could come to a quick decision in time for the unveiling of the memorial on November 8.

"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."

He said the trust has to consider "legal implications of the proposed lease arrangement", and the fact that the site is already leased to the Fermanagh University Partnership Board - the Clinton Centre's tenants.

He also cited `health and safety considerations'.

Mgr McGuinnes said there are proposals to expand the use of the Clinton Centre, which "will mean some modifications to the building and its surroundings, and this would also have implications for the siting of a memorial".

He insisted the trust "is being conscientious in discharging its obligations, both as a church body and a charitable trust".

"None of us wish to add in any way to the pain of all who have suffered so dreadfully over the last 30 years," he said.

"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."

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