Victims group’s challenge to PSNI over Enniskillen atrocity

The funeral cortetge of an Enniskillen bomb victim passes the scene of the explosion at the town's cenotaph in November 1987.
The funeral cortetge of an Enniskillen bomb victim passes the scene of the explosion at the town's cenotaph in November 1987.

A Fermanagh-based victims group has challenged the chief constable over claims that the PSNI “remains committed to pursuing investigative options” in the hope of Enniskillen bomb prosecutions.

Ken Funston of SEFF (South East Fermanagh Foundation) accused George Hamilton of having “no interest in investigating the past” and added: “The PSNI would profess that they are doing everything within their power to bring the perpetrators of the Enniskillen atrocity to justice, unfortunately I do not think anything could be further from the truth.”

Eleven people we killed when the IRA exploded a bomb to coincide with the Remembrance Day service in the Fermanagh town on November 8, 1987. A twelfth victim would die 13 years later having never regained consciousness.

The mass murder, at a community event universally regarded as sacrosanct, caused revulsion and sent shockwaves around the world. No one has ever been convicted of involvement in the atrocity.

In a News Letter article published on Tuesday (Nov 7), PSNI superintendent Ian Harrison said: “Since initial investigation into the bomb attack on the memorial service at Enniskillen in 1987 a number of case reviews and further investigative actions have been undertaken by police. The PSNI remains committed to pursuing investigative options should they develop in the future.”

However, Mr Funston said: “It should be ingrained within the bedrock of any society that the rule of law is paramount, it clearly is not in Northern Ireland. The chief constable has made it clear a number of times that he has no interest in investigating the past.

“That attitude has permeated throughout the ranks, and we are in a situation where any unpunished terrorist between the years 1969-1998 believe they have ‘got away with it.’ Alongside this abuse of the past is the desire of the police to investigate their own ex-colleagues in the RUC and members of the Armed Forces.”

Mr Funston added: “Supt Harrison may conduct a PR exercise in this paper in relation to previous reviews of the Enniskillen case, these were ‘paper’ exercises. The current review of this atrocity was opened by HET 11 years ago, it remains unfinished.

“I might suggest there are other sections of society who would not tolerate this state of affairs. The reality is there is no desire within policing to conduct a proper investigation as there will be potential revelations that will make uneasy reading for many.”

In response to Mr Funston’s comments, the chief constable George Hamilton said:

“Any assertion that the PSNI has not done everything possible to bring the perpetrators to justice and that I have no interest in investigating the past is simply wrong and deflects the responsibility and focus away from the terrorists who were responsible for this awful atrocity.

“The reality is the police service can only investigate and then present the evidence it uncovers to the PPS.

“To date, despite our best efforts through three reviews and two investigations, it is deeply regrettable no-one has been brought to justice. It’s also fair to say that as time passes the likelihood of a criminal justice outcome is more and more difficult to achieve.

“Despite the fact that we have not been able to bring those responsible to justice, the families have my personal assurance that the case will remain open and should further opportunities arise these will be actively pursued.

“Many families are frustrated and rightly seek justice for the murder of their loved ones at the hands of terrorists, however the police service can only operate with the evidence and resources that are available.

“Despite facing resource cuts of £140m in my three years as chief constable, I continue to spend in excess of £25m a year fulfilling PSNI’s legal responsibilities relating to the past. I will always ensure that the PSNI plays its part in meeting the needs of the past, but am also conscious that I must balance this against delivering a policing service and keeping people safe in the present.

“I would therefore repeat my continued calls for a political response in creating a bespoke mechanism or institution to address the issues of the past to the satisfaction of the victims of the Troubles and their families.

“Having personally engaged with SEFF, and spoken at their conference last year, I remain willing to engage with them and continue to do my utmost to assist bringing justice to the families and victims of this and other terrorist atrocities.

“This is an extremely difficult and sad week for Northern Ireland society as a whole, including those of us in the police service. This weekend I will be standing with the Enniskillen families and my thoughts will be with them and all of those who have lost friends and family through our troubled past.”