DUP's Arlene Foster pledges to help find solution to Enniskillen bomb memorial dispute
DUP leader Arlene Foster says she will do all she can to help find a solution over the continued absence of a memorial to those killed in the Enniskillen Poppy Day memorial bomb.
The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA said a solution could be found but there had to be an end to what she described as a "running sore" in the town.
"This doesn't do anyone any good in the town of Enniskillen or indeed across Northern Ireland to see victims hurt in the way these families are hurting," she told the BBC saying it was important face-to-face dialogue took place.
"The church has said they are not against a memorial, so let's take that as a starting point."
It comes amid growing anger at the decision by the local St Michael's parish to reject a permanent tribute to the Remembrance Sunday attack on its land.
Twelve people died and dozens more were injured in the bomb on November 8, 1987. Last November, on the 30th anniversary of the atrocity, a monument to the victims was removed hours after being placed at a location close to where the bomb went off.
The memorial had been placed on a site owned by St Michael’s Diocesan Trust, which said at the time it had not been consulted by the council on the decision to erect the monument. Last week the church set out its reasons for rejecting its placing.
It said that while it was not opposed to a memorial, health and safety concerns meant it could not be placed on the families' preferred location outside the Clinton Centre.
Arlene Foster said the decision was "disappointing" and the manner in which it has occurred "painful".
"I share the sense of devastation which that day brought and I also share a vision for the future, in which the lives of 12 people can be remembered for the generations to come," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"A publically funded memorial should not be left behind closed doors in storage."
She added: "The best thing that can happen is face to face dialogue with the church. It is important to have that because that has not happened to date.
"I don't want to make this a political issue. It is an issue of making sure the right thing is done. It is a memorial which recognises the horrific death of local people and should be put in place and that is the wishes of the families."
Mrs Foster said there had been a breakdown in communication over the issue between the groups involved.
She added: "Of course a solution can be found... to receive a flat "no" has been very hurtful. It would have been better had their been dialogue between the church and the victims' families before they got a letter in the fashion they did.
The former first minister said that she did not want to discuss what a possible solution could be but said meetings should take place sooner rather than later.
"There are solutions if there is a genuine willingness," she added.
"The last thing we want is for this to continue to be a running sore in Enniskillen and I would argue it has affected those further beyond the Fermanagh community."
Mrs Foster added: "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. 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.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital