Queen joins in tributes to victims of Enniskillen Poppy Day blast

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THE Queen yesterday told the victims of the Enniskillen bomb that her thoughts were with them on the 25th anniversary of the IRA atrocity.

The monarch sent the message to her Lord-Lieutenant of Fermanagh, the Rt Hon The Earl of Erne KCVO.

“As we mark the 25th anniversary of the bombing at Enniskillen, my thoughts are with the victims, the bereaved, and with all those who continue to bear the scars of this dreadful event,” she said.

“A quarter of a century ago, we were able to draw comfort and strength from the hope that out of the personal tragedies of Enniskillen might come eventual reconciliation between communities.

“Today, a quarter of a century later, we can all reflect on how far we have travelled along this road; and my recent visit to the people of Enniskillen gave me much reason to be optimistic about the future.

“My good wishes and prayers are with everyone who will be marking today’s anniversary, and with all those who strive for peace in this country and throughout the world.”

The message was sent as hundreds of people gathered in Enniskillen yesterday to commemorate the anniversary.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers joined the bereaved families for a moving ceremony at the scene of an atrocity which shocked the world.

On November 8, 1987, the IRA detonated a 40lb device as the annual cenotaph tribute to the fallen of two world wars was taking place.

It claimed the lives of six men and five women, including a 20-year-old nurse, an RAF veteran and three elderly married couples.

A seventh man spent 13 years in a coma before passing away in 2000.

Almost 70 people were injured – many seriously – and several still bear constant reminders of the attack in the form of crippling pains and restricted mobility.

Former News Letter editor Austin Hunter officially welcomed everyone attending the commemoration on behalf of the families.

He said the injured and bereaved had been forced to live with the effects of that “despicable” act every day – a “cold-hearted, clinical and brutal action of terrorists” that destroyed their lives forever.

Among the survivors at the service was Jim Dixon. The father-of-three defied the odds to pull through despite suffering near fatal injuries.

Stephen Gault, whose father Samuel died by his side when the bomb exploded, placed a wreath in memory of his “dear father and friend”.

On behalf of the Omagh bomb families, Michael Gallagher and Stanley McCombe also laid a floral tribute.

Flag bearers from various ex-service associations provided a guard of honour throughout the hour-long service.

Addressing the sombre gathering, Lord Maurice Morrow spoke of the lasting pain inflicted by the terrorist bombers on the innocent.

“They were not soldiers answering for battle. They were not armed. They were not at the cenotaph to harm or do anyone harm,” he said.

“They were deemed, however, to be legitimate targets because they wanted to honour those of all faiths.”

At exactly 10.43am, a minute’s silence was held to mark the exact time of the blast 25 years ago.

Although no one has been convicted of the murders, a new report complied by the Historical Enquiries Team is to be handed to police to determine whether there is ample evidence for a fresh investigation.

Prior to laying a wreath at the cenotaph, First Minister Peter Robinson hit out at those republicans who know the identity of the bombers.

“They are keen to have reconciliation in Northern Ireland, they want people to have the truth yet they remain silent about what happened on this occasion,” he said.

“Let those who want to have the truth, speak the truth. I would be very keen that there would be some justice given to the families after such a long period of suffering and torment.”

Speaking following yesterday’s commemoration, the Secretary of State said: “I had the privilege of meeting many of the families and friends of the 12 victims killed and I was very struck by their quiet dignity and stoicism in the face of such tragedy.

“I applaud them for their resilience. As we approach Remembrance Sunday we must ensure that they are never forgotten.”

Mrs Villiers added: “This has been a sad week for Northern Ireland and my thoughts and prayers are with all victims of terrorism, and their families, today.”

TUV leader Jim Allister described the Enniskillen commemoration as “one of the best organised and moving Remembrance events” he had ever attended.

“The grace and dignity displayed by both those who lost loved ones on that day, and those who still carry the physical and mental scars to this day, was moving,” he said.

“It is scandalous that a quarter of a century later no one has even been questioned about the bombing much less stood before a court of law.

“Political considerations mean that, shamefully, the perpetrators of that dastardly act will probably never be held accountable in this life.”

Bishop of Clogher, the Rt Revd John McDowell, gave the address at a special service in St Macartin’s Cathedral, which took place immediately after the cenotaph commemoration.

He said: “Today is a day when we remember those who were themselves remembering when they were murdered, and we try to do so with the same simplicity, gratitude and dignity as they showed when they gathered that day at the war memorial.

“We need also to reflect on the fact that what has been achieved in this part of Northern Ireland is to a great degree due to the quiet generosity of this community.

“It is a community that has refused to allow its relationships with one another or its unique spirit to be poisoned by enmity and violence. I thank God that we have this opportunity today for people from every part of the community to come together in this way.”