Victim’s son fights for tribute to be reinstated
The son of a man killed in the IRA's notorious Poppy Day bombing has demanded to know why a memorial to the victims has still not been reinstated — six weeks after a Government watchdog ruled it was wrongly removed.
Stephen Gault, whose father Samuel was one of 11 people who died in the 1987 Remembrance Day attack at the cenotaph in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, has launched a campaign to get the photographic tribute back on the wall of the town's fire station.
The montage of the victims was controversially taken down only days before the 20th anniversary of the atrocity.
In May the decision by the NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) — taken after an anonymous complaint from a member of staff — was found to be “ill considered” by Ombudsman Tom Frawley.
While fire chiefs have since said sorry to Mr Gault (40) for the pain the incident caused him, the montage has still not been replaced on the station wall.
”The fire service has apologised but for me it's not worth the paper it's written on,” he said.
“The fight now is to get the picture reinstated,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the NIFRS said its management board had ended its tenure last month and its members had felt a decision on the montage would be taken by its new board when it is formed.
The Enniskillen man has now, whose life has been blighted by stress-related health problems since his father's death, launched an internet petition on social networking site Facebook last Friday.”In only four days I've almost 850 people signed up in support and about 700 of those I have no idea who they are, they are total strangers who just believe this is right.
“People from England have joined, even a couple from America and a serving fireman in New York has put his support to it.
“The last three years have been very, very hard with all this.I've been crippled with pain, especially these last six weeks my condition has worsened again because of the stress and hassle of this all being brought back up again.”
Mr Gault's efforts to get the picture re-instated have also gained political support from across Northern Ireland's traditional divide, with the nationalist SDLP backing him along with the Democratic Unionists and Ulster Unionists.
“This is cross community,” he said.
“It's not just the unionist side of the community that was offended (when the picture was removed),, it was widespread, both communities.
“At the time of the photograph coming down my mum was seriously ill with cancer. She died three weeks after the 20th anniversary so she took that with her: the hurt of this photograph of her husband and the other innocent people being taken down.
“So that is another drive for me: to do this not only in my father's memory but also the memory of my mum.”
Since the montage was taken down the NIFRS has put a photograph of the bomb scene on the wall of the station. But Mr Gault said that is unacceptable as it doesn't show or name the victims as the original tribute did.
“It's also not acceptable because at the end of the day that photograph (the montage)was put up by the firemen themselves.
“It was actual firemen that were on the scene that day, they clubbed together got this montage made and framed and put it on their wall as a reminder of that day.”
A spokeswoman for the NIFRS said its management board had ended its tenure last month and its members had felt a decision on the montage should be taken by the new board, when it is formed.
“This sensitive matter will be taken forward by the new NIFRS board,” she said.