Enniskillen bomb memorial being removed
Image caption The memorial to the Enniskillen bomb victims was removed hours after being unveiled

Catholic parishioners in Enniskillen have been told there is no objection to a memorial to the victims of the 1987 bomb.

The memorial was proposed for land owned by a diocesan trust beside the Clinton Centre in the town.

It was unveiled on Wednesday but removed and put into storage hours later.

A statement from Monsignor Joseph McGuiness was read out all masses in St Michael’s Parish over the weekend.

He said the St Michael’s Diocesan Trust had not had sufficient time to consider “very complex issues” around the placement of the memorial.

The bomb exploded at the town’s cenotaph on 8 November 1987, resulting in the deaths of 12 people.

Speaking to BBC NI’s Sunday Sequence programme, Fr McGuinness said that the church had no objection to anything that was on the memorial.

“As far as what is on this memorial is concerned, we would not have been aware of that until it was unveiled on Wednesday last, therefore we weren’t in any position to object even if we had wanted to,” he said.

“We certainly had no issue with what was on the memorial, that wasn’t what we were giving consideration to.”

Image caption The memorial was unveiled on Wednesday

Fr McGuinneess’ statement came after Stephen Gault, whose father, Samuel, was killed in the atrocity, said that the uncertainty had been very hurtful and stressful for the families.

Mr Gault’s wife Sharon, who is a Catholic parishioner at St Michael’s, said she had written to the diocesan trust to ask what “valid objections” it could have.

Planning permission for the memorial was granted in July.

Mrs Gault and the Ely Centre, a victims’ charity which supported the memorial proposal, said discussions and consultations had been ongoing with the diocesan trust for a number of months.

However, the trust said it had only received documentation about the memorial in late September.

In Fr McGuinness’ statement, read at all masses in St Michael’s Parish on Saturday and Sunday, he said the issue “had been the subject of much speculation and comment in the media and elsewhere, much of it ill-informed”.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Stephen Gault said the uncertainty over where the memorial will be sited has been very hurtful

The statement said the diocesan trust was informed of the plan to place the memorial at the Clinton Centre “about six weeks ago”.

“The diocesan trust willingly agreed to give the proposal full and careful consideration, but made it very clear that the matter couldn’t be resolved in such a short space of time, given the issues which would have to be considered,” the Fr McGuinness said.

The statement outlined a number of legal issues the trust believes have to be taken into consideration before the memorial could be mounted permanently, including:

  • The legal implications of the proposed lease arrangement
  • The views of the current tenants of the Clinton Centre, the Fermanagh University Partnership Board (FUPB)
  • The obligations of the trust to FUPB and its current lease
  • Health and safety
  • Proposed expansion work at the Clinton Centre that will involve changes to the building

“From all this I hope it is clear that, contrary to some comments being made, the diocesan trust is not trying to be in any way obstructive, but rather has had to begin to address complex issues which have only recently been posed to it,” the Fr McGuinness said.

The church denied that the diocesan trust had it had any problem with the poppy symbol on the memorial and said that it had never expressed a view on the matter.

It also denied that it was responsible for the removal of the memorial after the unveiling ceremony and said that arrangements for its care were in the hands of the organisers of that event.

The statement added that the church had not been consulted by the local council on the matter.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The scene at the cenotaph in Enniskillen after the 1987 bombing

“It has also been reported that the diocesan trust was notified by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council of the proposal to place the memorial on land held by the trust.

“The council has made it clear that it does not, in fact, have this responsibility and that it is for the planning applicant to seek approval from the landowner.”

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