Sunday 25 February 2018

Taoiseach lays wreath for war dead

Ireland's Taoiseach Enda Kenny has laid a laurel wreath for the war dead on Remembrance Sunday in Northern Ireland.

The Fine Gael leader and head of the Government attended a solemn ceremony at the memorial in Enniskillen - where the IRA killed 11 people in a Poppy Day bomb in 1987 - amid the lakelands of Co Fermanagh.

World leaders gathered near the town in the region's far west earlier this year for the G8 economic summit. But today was about commemoration and reflection, and Mr Kenny stood for a moment with head bowed.

Enniskillen was marking the 26th anniversary of the no-warning blast. Relatives of the victims of the IRA attack also laid tributes.

Those who died in the attack were all Protestant and they included three married couples, a reserve police officer and several pensioners.

Ex-headmaster Ronnie Hill died 13 years after being injured in the attack.

The youngest victim was 20-year-old nurse Marie Wilson whose father, Gordon Wilson, subsequently gave a moving interview in which he said he had prayed for those behind the attack.

Mr Kenny made history in Enniskillen last year by becoming the first Irish premier to attend a Remembrance Day service in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers laid a poppy wreath at the Co Fermanagh memorial, which was rebuilt after the bomb, as did local Stormont Assembly members Arlene Foster and Tom Elliott.

In Belfast, Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson and Ireland's deputy leader, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, attended a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph beside the city hall.

The event is jointly organised by Belfast City Council and the Royal British Legion.

Soldiers from the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) divisions fought in the First World War's Battle of the Somme between 1 July and 13 November 1916.

Mr Gilmore said: " It is both important and appropriate that I am here today in Belfast to respectfully remember those Irishmen and women, from all communities and from both parts of the island, who died in conflict."

The Taoiseach said he had been moved by meeting relatives of the Enniskillen dead and those injured by the blast.

"It was something that made an impact on me when I came here," Mr Kenny told the Irish Times.

"I think it was appreciated by the groups that I met."

He said the continuing impact of atrocities such as Enniskillen demonstrated the need to deal with the consequences of the past and the importance of encouraging reconciliation.

"It says we should continue to work together to bring a sense of understanding and justice to those victims of the atrocious bomb in Enniskillen and in a broader sense to define what it means for the victims of terrorism right across the board," he added.

Prime Minister David Cameron and the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny will visit a First World War memorial in Belgium next month, Mr Kenny told the BBC.

He said the visit to Messines and the Menin Gate had been planned since the Queen's visit to Dublin in 2011 and added that the visit will be a recognition of the role of Irish soldiers in the First World War.

The memorial site at Messines is also known as the Irish Peace Park or the Irish Peace Tower.

It is dedicated to all the soldiers of Ireland who died, were wounded or missing in the First World War.

Press Association

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