Alf McCreary: Survivors and families of Enniskillen deserve better than memorial row
Many people like me must be wondering what on earth is going on in Enniskillen. This follows the recent announcement that a Catholic Diocesan Trust has turned down a proposal for a permanent memorial to the victims of the 1987 Cenotaph bombing to be sited on its land.
Monsignor Peter O’Reilly, the parish priest in Enniskillen, is reported as saying that the move was not about rejecting any memorial or its content, but about this particular memorial and its proposed location.
Meanwhile, the St Michael’s Diocesan Trust has indicated that it was “deeply conscious of the horrific effects” of the bombing.
It stated that it had no objection to a permanent memorial, but the size and scale of this particular structure would pose insurmountable problems for access.
There was also the complex problem about its maintenance and upkeep.
In a lengthy statement, the trust also claimed that there was no consultation with the property owners (ie the trust) before the memorial was commissioned.
The trust also stated: “We are happy that the redeveloped Clinton Centre will include a memorial to the victims of the Enniskillen bombing.”
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It also pledged itself “to further the continuing work for peace and reconciliation so that all the families of those affected by the Enniskillen bombing and the wider Northern Ireland conflict can find the healing they need and deserve”.
That is easier said than done, especially after the terrible mix-up surrounding the siting of a memorial in Enniskillen, of all places.
This was one of the most brutal of all the many outrages in Northern Ireland, and unfortunately there are very many to choose from.
Eleven innocent civilians were killed — and more than 60 others were badly injured — when a Provisional IRA no-warning bomb exploded at the Cenotaph on November 8, 1987. Thirteen years later, Ronnie Hill, who had been in a coma since being injured in the blast, died.
The attack sent shockwaves across this island and drew comments from national leaders around the globe, as well as the Queen.
In her Christmas broadcast she took the unprecedented step of mentioning by name the bravery of Senator Gordon Wilson, whose daughter Marie was killed by the bomb and he himself was badly injured.
It is hard to believe that more than 30 years after this atrocity, a proper and permanent memorial has not found a home in Enniskillen. The victims and their families deserve better.
It was bad enough that there was confusion last November before the 30th anniversary of the outrage and then there was the sad sight of the memorial being taken away again and placed under wraps.
It seemed at the time that some agreement would be reached with the St Michael’s Diocesan Trust, but sadly these hopes have been dashed.
It would be easy to get caught up in the blame game, especially as it is a very complex situation, but most people inside and outside Enniskillen will agree that the symbolism is terrible.
People will rightly be asking: “How did it get to this, why was there not better planning all round, and why are the victims of those who died and were injured still feeling badly done by, more than 30 years after the event?”
The St Michael’s Trust can talk about furthering the work for peace and reconciliation, but this mess in Enniskillen — whoever is responsible for it — will be remembered for a very long time to come.
Other places such as Omagh and Kingsmill/Bessbrook, where people have suffered grievously, have long had proper memorials to help the families of the victims deal with their grief, and to remind us all of the awfulness of violence.
Is it too much to ask that Enniskillen and its people will finally be given the memorial or memorials they deserve?
It is only proper that they will be able to continue to underline for us and for future generations the horrendous period of suffering in that town, and also the outstanding courage of people like Gordon Wilson.
This should always symbolise for all of us the worst and the very best of humanity at a time of great darkness in our history.