Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster urges 'face-to-face dialogue' in Enniskillen memorial row

The memorial was unveiled last year at an event marking 30 years since the attack
Brendan Hughes


ARLENE Foster has called for "face-to-face dialogue" between the Catholic Church and the families of Enniskillen bomb victims to help resolve a dispute over a proposed memorial.

It came as some of the families yesterday urged the Catholic Primate of Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, to intervene after claiming no-one would meet them.

Last week the proposed memorial was formally rejected by St Michael's Diocesan Trust, a Catholic Church trust which owns the land where the monument was due to be placed.

St Michael's parish said the trust had no objection to a permanent memorial, but cited concerns over its size and location outside the Clinton Centre.

Twelve people were killed and 68 others injured in the IRA bombing on Remembrance Sunday 1987.

The memorial was unveiled last year at an event marking 30 years since the attack, but it was put into storage after the diocese said it had not been consulted.

Stephen Gault, whose father was killed in the atrocity, said he was "deeply hurt but not surprised" by the decision, adding: "The families are hurting immensely over this."

Margaret Veitch, whose parents were murdered in the bomb, claimed no-one from the church would meet them.

"I would like a face-to-face meeting and maybe we could come to some compromise. We have requested one for months," she told the BBC.

Both Mrs Veitch and Mr Gault claimed they had received no support from politicians or churches in the area.

"No politician has bothered with us, the Enniskillen people haven't bothered with us, the local churches haven't bothered with us, and we feel terribly let down and actually so annoyed that it is unbelievable that the Enniskillen people can't stick together and help us," Mrs Veitch said.

DUP leader Mrs Foster said she has had meetings with victims' families and other stakeholders since the memorial project began, and met with some of the families yesterday.

She said that while the decision was "disappointing and the manner in which it has occurred has been painful, I believe we can move forward and find a lasting solution".

"I hope a meeting between the Roman Catholic Church, the families affected by the Enniskillen Poppy Day bomb and Fermanagh University Partnership Board can take place so that face-to-face dialogue can occur," she said.

"So far this has not happened, despite requests from the families, and I firmly believe that such a meeting would be helpful to all. My focus is on a solution rather than recrimination."

Former Impartial Reporter editor Denzil McDaniel – who wrote a book on the Enniskillen bomb – said that "as a society we don't listen to victims' voices enough", but he had some sympathy for the Catholic Church over the proposed memorial.

"It's a very difficult position that they found themselves in. They have genuinely I know looked at this with sensitivity," he told BBC's Talkback programme.

"It's the size, the nature and the siting of the memorial that's the problem, not the memorial itself."

He said it was his impression that some of those who lost loved ones in Enniskillen "are not entirely happy with the notion of what the memorial stands for".

UUP MLA Rosemary Barton said she has been "fully supportive of the Enniskillen families" and in regular contact with them.

She said she wrote to the trust but did not receive any response, adding: "I share the great disappointment of the families that this issue has not been resolved to their satisfaction."

St Michael's Parish last week said they were "deeply conscious of the horrific effects and legacy" of the Enniskillen bomb, and the trust has "no objection to a permanent memorial".

But it added: "The sheer size of the memorial, taken together with the high volume of footfall on the public footpath in front of the Clinton Centre, and the connected issues of access to the school at the side and rear of the building, would make the proposed location unsuitable from the point of view of the health and safety of the public."

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: "Everyone has the right to remember their dead in a dignified and respectful way. The current dispute should be resolved through dialogue."

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