Micheal Martin keeps up a welcome new tradition of Irish prime ministers paying their respects at remembrance services in Northern Ireland

News Letter editorial of Monday November 15 2021:

By Editorial
Monday, 15th November 2021, 11:02 am
Updated Monday, 15th November 2021, 11:05 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

For almost a decade now, incumbent Irish prime ministers have attended the main Remembrance Sunday service in Fermanagh.

What has now become an annual tradition first happened in 2012, when the then Fine Gael Taoiseach Enda Kenny laid a wreath at the war memorial in Enniskillen.

His successor Leo Varadkar followed that precedent and visited the town to pay his respects each November.

Last year Micheal Martin did likewise, the first Fianna Fail leader to take part in the event, and he did so again yesterday.

Some observers have suggested that these Remembrance Sunday visits have their origins in the fact that Arlene Foster is from Fermanagh, yet it pre-dates her becoming first minister of Northern Ireland by several years.

Another possible reason is that Fermanagh is far to the south of NI, and thus not too far from the centre of the island of Ireland — it is a logical location for an event of cross-border reconciliation.

But one of clearest apparent reasons for these visits is to recognise the deep wound that there is in Enniskillen since the Poppy Day atrocity.

All massacres of civilians are evil, but the 1987 bombing remains particularly fresh in public memory because no-one would have imagined that a remembrance service would be targeted — not even by depraved terrorists. But it was.

There is good reason for unionists to be upset by the nationalist rhetoric that has come out of Dublin, particularly since 2016. This has included scathing criticism of the UK amnesty plans, criticism that is utterly hypocritical (as explained by Kenny Donaldson on these pages last Tuesday) in light of Ireland’s own de facto amnesty for the IRA.

But at the same time it is important to recognise the deep symbolism of these welcome and poignant Remembrance Sunday visits to Enniskillen, and the way that successive Irish governments have made them a fixture.

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