Belfast Telegraph

Enniskillen bomb: Poppy on memorial 'stopping Catholic church' allowing it on its land

Calls for Catholic church to 'act swiftly'

By Jonathan Bell

The Catholic church at the centre of a storm over the placing of a memorial to the Enniskillen bomb victims has refused to comment on claims a single poppy on the monument is the reason it has refused to allow it to be placed on its land.

That was the claim made by survivor Stephen Gault on the BBC Stephen Nolan show. His father Samuel  was killed in the atrocity.

He described the hurt at seeing a new memorial unveiled at the spot the bomb went off, only for it to be placed on a truck "like it was being taken out for bin day" to go back into storage.

Wednesday marked the 30th anniversary if the bombing which claimed the lives of 12 people and injured scores of others.

The memorial for the service was unveiled at a moving ceremony in the town. It was to be placed on the spot the bomb exploded, however, a dispute with the owners of the land, the Catholic church, has meant the memorial was placed on the back of a truck after the service and put into storage until the matter is resolved.

St Michael's Diocesan Trust has said it has only recently received documentation requesting the placement of the memorial, which bears the names of those killed, and is considering the matter.  It said it would consider the issue alongside legal and lease obligations alongside its "reconciliation work in the wider community".

Fermanagh council said a planning application declared notice was served on the church and the Clinton Centre of the proposal in January 2017.

Stephen Gault was standing next to his father when the bomb went off. Samuel was killed and Stephen was left severely injured. He said there are rumours the wording of the memorial or even the fact it carried a single poppy was causing contention.

"Just let us put the memorial on the spot where my father and all the others were brutally murdered," he told Stephen Nolan before breaking down in tears.

He said the sight of the memorial being put on the back of a lorry "like it was bin day" and taken away was a "disgrace". His wife is a parishioner with the church and has asked it to explain why there has been a delay in coming to a decision but received no response.  She said it had made her consider her membership of the church.

Mr Gault said planning permission was granted six months ago with no objections made.

"All of a sudden, some several weeks before the anniversary, we came up against this final hurdle and obviously the memorial then had to be removed, it wasn't allowed to stay."

TUV leader Jim Allister, who was at the memorial service, described the issue as appalling and said the matter needed to be resolved as quickly as possible.

"We have heard a lot about the spirit of Enniskillen in the aftermath of the bombing. Does that spirit not extend to allowing this memorial?

"I am appalled over the procrastination or difficulties that have come about because of this and I call on the Catholic church to move swiftly to facilitate this and have this resolved.

"The anxiety is self evident and only adding to insult to the hurt."

St Michael's Diocesan Trust said it was notified by the Ely Centre of its intention to place the memorial at the entrance of the Clinton Centre which is on its land but not by the council in relation to the planning permission request.

A statement said: "We are all sensitive to the memories and grief being experienced during these days by the families and relatives of those who died and were injured in the Enniskillen Remembrance Sunday bomb of 1987. All of us recognise the place of remembrance in life and the importance of how memorials can help us to come to terms with personal pain and loss.

"The Trust wishes to place on record that, as owner of the property concerned, it was not consulted by the council in relation to the granting of planning permission. Nonetheless, the Trust is in the process of giving due and careful consideration to all aspects of the request and has yet to come to any decision.

"There has been engagement between representatives of St Michael’s Diocesan Trust and the Ely Centre since the submission of the above-mentioned documentation and we look forward to the continuation of that in the future."

It said it could be "some time" before it is able to come to a decision.

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council said it was not responsible for consulting land owners about planning applications. The onus was on the applicant to serve notice to the owner under the regulations. It said the council did notify the Clinton Centre given the proposed location.

"The applicant has indicated on the planning application form notice was served on three parties on the 9 January 2017. One of these was St Michaels Diocesan Trust," a spokesman added.

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