Enniskillen fire station protest

SURVIVORS and relatives of those killed in the 1987 Enniskillen Poppy Day bomb are planning a protest outside the fire station where a montage of victims of the blast was removed over fears that it breached equality guidelines.

The protest at 7.45pm tomorrow night comes amid signs of mounting frustration among the Enniskillen families at the decision to remove the tribute.

The row is becoming a touchstone for fears that history is being rewritten in a way that airbrushes victims of terrorism out. It follows a similar row in 2005 about a bomb tribute that was removed from an ambulance station in Enniskillen.

One of the organisers of the protest Jim Dixon, who was injured in the Remembrance Day bomb, said: "The faceless complainants got away with it in the ambulance station. They are not going to get away with it here."

As the row developed last night, a spokesman for the Omagh bomb victims expressed support for the Enniskillen relatives.

And, speaking from her home in London, Aileen Quinton – whose 72-year-old mother Alberta was among the Enniskillen dead – said she felt disbelief more than anger when she heard of the latest row.

At first she thought the media was referring to the 2005 ambulance station row.

"I am surprised and disappointed to hear it has happened again, it is just hard to get your head round it.

"It is very very sad when this sort of thing happens. I don't see whose equality that picture is infringing upon, I just don't see it.

"I can't imagine that a majority of either Roman Catholics or nationalists would consider the picture offensive. I would imagine that quite a few of them are quite horrified, especially those people that knew any of the 11 who were murdered, or 12 when you include Ronnie Hill who died so many years later."

Tommy Gallagher, SDLP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said: "I'd say that most nationalists are disappointed that there is controversy at this time in the

run-up to the anniversary of that horrific bomb, when so many

local people from the town were killed.

"I understand from people I have spoken to in the Fire Service that the majority of the personnel were happy with the montage that was in place."

He said that those he had spoken to were keen to protect good relations that had developed within the Fire Service in Enniskillen.

Mr Gallagher said he hoped the Fire Service would investigate the complaint and take on board the views of all those who work in the station and out of that he hoped "a way will be found where a place can be found in the fire station where this picture can be displayed".

The photo montage of the 1987 Enniskillen bomb victims, with a sketch of the Cenotaph, has been on display in Enniskillen station for 19 years, and was put up as a tribute to fire crew who helped out in the aftermath of the bomb, which claimed the lives of 12 people.

The News Letter understands that the picture was bought for 10 following a unanimous agreement by firefighters present in the station at that time.

Mr Dixon said: "We are outraged at the authorities, for their unsympathetic actions to something that is not sinister. These are innocent people who were murdered.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed in the 1998 Omagh bomb, said: "These are things that affected the lives of people in Enniskillen and the feelings of those who suffered should always be considered first. My thoughts will be with them.

"It is a bit rich for people to feel offended by a memorial to such a horrific incident. The people who should feel offended, are the people who buried their dead.

"I am dismayed at the way victims are treated. It is quite incredible that so soon after we have reached peace and agreement, people are seeking to rewrite history because they are uncomfortable with it."