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Obituary: Former Ombudsman and council chief Gerry Burns who helped set up trust after bombing



Respected: Gerry Burns

Respected: Gerry Burns

Respected: Gerry Burns

Gerry Burns, who has died at the age of 85, is remembered this week as a devoted public servant who was deeply committed to reconciliation.

Mr Burns, who narrowly escaped death in the 1987 Enniskillen bombing, was a former chief executive of Fermanagh District Council.

In the aftermath of the IRA attack, which claimed 12 lives and injured over 60 others, he was instrumental in establishing the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust.

This was set up to empower young people from Northern Ireland to understand and respect each other's traditions.

A native of the Falls Road in west Belfast, Mr Burns became an adopted son of Co Fermanagh and a dear friend to many.

He met his late wife Maire - known as Moyra - (nee Connolly), from Co Antrim, while she was training as a nurse in Belfast's Mater Hospital.

The couple married in 1962 and set up home in Belfast before moving to Armagh and eventually settling on Old Rossory Road, Enniskillen.

Mr Burns served as chief executive of the old Fermanagh District Council for almost 20 years, retiring in 1996.

Paying tribute, the current chief executive of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Alison McCullagh, said Mr Burns was "very highly regarded by his colleagues in local government across Northern Ireland and made a very significant contribution to Co Fermanagh".

The chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Siobhan Currie added: "As chief executive, he oversaw many developments to council services and facilities and is fondly remembered by all who had the pleasure of working with him, both staff and elected representatives."

But this work was only a small part of his contribution to public life.

Following his retirement from local government, he was prominent in a number of roles, including Northern Ireland Ombudsman.

As chair of the independent review of the 11-plus and post-primary education in 2000, he was the author of the Burns report into secondary education in Northern Ireland.

Having been tasked with the duty by the then Minister for Education Martin McGuinness, his 300-page report recommended an end to the controversial 11-plus transfer test within two years.

Mr Burns was a member of The Irish Times board and a governor of The Irish Times Trust from 1997 to 2007. He was also the former pro-chancellor of Ulster University from 2002 to 2009 and chairman of the University Council, and he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the university in December of 2009.

Mr Burns passed away peacefully surrounded by his family at the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen on Tuesday morning after a short illness.

He was predeceased by Maire in January 2019 and is survived by his five children, Gerard Jr, Declan, Yvanna, Nuala and John, grandchildren and wider family circle.

His funeral Mass will take place on Thursday at 11am in St Michael's Church in Enniskillen followed by burial in Cross Cemetery.

Belfast Telegraph