PSNI treating republican poster on Enniskillen Cenotaph as hate incident
The PSNI is treating the erection of an anti-British poster on the cenotaph in Enniskillen on the eve of Armistice Day as a hate incident.
Twelve people were killed and almost 70 others were injured in the IRA bombing of a Remembrance Sunday commemoration at Enniskillen cenotaph on 8 November 1987. The poster is understood to have been erected two days after the anniversary, on Wednesday night - the eve of Armistice Day, 11 November.
A PSNI spokesperson said they are aware of a number of posters being erected in the Enniskillen area yesterday on Wednesday evening, including one at the Cenotaph.
“Due to the sensitivities around Armistice Day, a decision was taken to remove and seize the poster at the Cenotaph,” they said. “This is being treated as a hate incident and an investigation is underway.”
DUP Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Deborah Erskine condemned those responsible.
“It is disgraceful that a republican poster was placed on Enniskillen war memorial last night,” she said. “For an organisation to erect these posters ahead of the acts of remembrance takes a special kind of twisted nature. They should front up and explain their need to be so insensitive and offensive.
“It was a deliberate act on the eve of Armistice Day. It was designed to offend. When this war memorial was unveiled in 1922, the first wreaths were laid by Protestant and Catholic orphans. It is those parents, who came from all faiths and none, that we remember, yet the people behind this poster, just endeavoured to cause hurt.
“I welcome the swift action by the police and their decision to investigate this as a hate crime. Anyone around Enniskillen who witnessed this poster being erected at the war memorial should get in touch with the police.
“Raising tensions and causing division is not what the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone want. Those responsible are in the minority and always will be. Their sick agenda has no support.”
DUP councillor Cllr Keith Elliott added: “I thank those who ensured this particular poster was taken down quickly. However, this republican organisation erected posters across the town.
“We do not want this behaviour in Enniskillen. Nobody wants to see community relations damaged.”
UUP MLA Rosemary Barton also condemned the actions of those responsible.
“In this Armistice Day week and the 34th Anniversary of the IRA’s Massacre at Enniskillen, the erecting of a number of these vile posters in the town - including at the War Memorial - is nothing but a hideous attempt to stoke up tensions once again in the area and people are indeed both disgusted and outraged,” she said.
“The Enniskillen Cenotaph is a place to remember those who lost their lives in both World Wars regardless of creed or colour, and it is also where people lost their lives in the IRA’s Enniskillen Bomb in 1987.
“Cenotaphs and War Memorials should be a place of respect and contemplation. Only a seriously twisted mind would seek to erect the type of poster that was put up at Enniskillen War Memorial in advance of Armistice Day, and timed to cause the maximum hurt and offence.
“This is a hate crime which must be condemned by all political parties and as the police investigate, I am calling on them to increase their surveillance around all war memorials.”
Fermanagh and South Tyrone TUV spokesperson Alex Elliott has written to the Chief Constable about the matter to ask what action the PSNI is taking.
“Given the events at that site in 1987 the placing of the poster has done enormous damage to community relations and is seen by both the Unionist community and innocent victims for exactly what it was - a calculated poke in the eye,” he said.
He suggested that potential offences committed may be a hate crime against soldiers, families and their dependents and behaviour likely to lead to a breach of the peace.
SDLP Fermanagh councillor Adam Gannon has said the placement of the poster is disgusting.
Councillor Gannon said: “The placing of this poster on the Enniskillen war memorial was a deliberate attempt to offend one side of our community and raise tensions in this area. Thankfully it has not succeeded, it has been rightly condemned and I’m glad it was removed before the commemorations on Thursday.
“While we may not always agree with each other on divisive events in our history, people should be allowed to commemorate in their own way with respect and dignity and I would remind the people behind this act that soldiers from all over our island fought in both world wars.
“I would encourage anyone with information about this disgraceful incident to come forward to the PSNI. Acts like this do nothing to help us foster a shared society and actively work against our goal of building a New Ireland where everyone can feel at home.”
A Sinn Féin spokesperson said the cenotaph is an “important and valued memorial” and like all memorials, should be respected as such.
“Everyone has a right to commemorate their dead with dignity and respect,” they added. “No one should do anything to disrespect a place where people remember their dead. Memorials are important and valued places for people right across our community, and should be respected as such. Everyone has a right to commemorate their dead with dignity and respect.”
The News Letter has also reached out to the organisation whose name is on the poster for comment. There has not yet been any response.
Asked if they had been in contact with the organisation, the PSNI said: “An investigation is underway as our enquiries into this incident continue”.
Kenny Donaldson, Director of Service at SEFF, which supports many of the Enniskillen bomb families, said the poster and the messages on it amounted to “ethnically motivated hatred and must be treated as a hate crime by the PSNI”.
He added: “To put this up on Armistice Day is a premeditated attempt to cause further hurting division”.
“Those remembered at Enniskillen cenotaph and on cenotaphs throughout these islands were Protestant, Roman Catholic, Unionist, Nationalist and other, British, Irish and neither. Those behind this stunt need to catch a grip and widen their reading material”.
Mr Donaldson added: “There are people within the community who will know the identity of those who did this, they must not turn the other way alike others have done in respect of the actual Enniskillen Poppy Day Remembrance bomb, where no-one has yet been held accountable”.
Meanwhile, Armistice Day has been marked with acts of remembrance in both Belfast and Dublin.
One of the largest gatherings took place at Belfast City Hall led by the Royal British Legion where the Deputy Lord Mayor Tom Haire and High Sheriff Michael Long were part of a delegation at the Garden of Remembrance.
A crowd gathered in the grounds as the Last Post was played before a two-minute silence was observed at 11am.
In Dublin the armistice was marked at Glasnevin Cemetery.
It was attended by Deputy Lord Mayor Joe Costello, Lord Lieutenant of Belfast Fionnuala Jay-O’Boyle, British ambassador to Ireland Paul Johnson as well as the French, Canadian and German ambassadors.
Also in attendance was Major General of the Defence Forces Anthony McKenna and John Connolly from the RAF Association Ireland.
An ecumenical service was led jointly by Fr Richard Sheehy and the Rev David Oxley.
Some seven wreaths were laid while a piper played a lament.
The DUP and UUP took part in acts of remembrance at Stormont.
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