12 November 2023

Taoiseach and NI Secretary lay wreaths in Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday

12 November 2023

Irish premier Leo Varadkar and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris have laid wreaths at a Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Co Fermanagh.

On a rainy day in Enniskillen, hundreds stood in silence for two minutes to mark the occasion at the war memorial in the town.

New PSNI chief constable Jon Boutcher and head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Jayne Brady were among those who laid wreaths during the commemoration.

Mr Heaton-Harris laid a poppy wreath on behalf of the UK Government.

The gathered crowd also heard music from the Ballyreagh Silver Band.

The King’s representative the Lord-Lieutenant for County Fermanagh Viscount Brookeborough, as well as a representative from Enniskillen Guides, also placed wreaths.

Mr Varadkar’s presence continued a tradition begun by former taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2012 by attending and placing a laurel wreath at the base of the memorial.

Mr Kenny became the first taoiseach to attend a Remembrance Day service in Northern Ireland when he took part in commemorations at Enniskillen in 2012, in a move seen as symbolic of greater recognition afforded in the Republic of Ireland to Irishmen who fought and died serving in the British Army in the First World War.

His attendance also marked the 25th anniversary of an IRA bombing at the memorial in 1987.

Eleven people who had gathered to pay their respects to the war dead were killed and dozens were injured in the no-warning blast on November 8 1987, minutes before the Remembrance Sunday ceremony was due to start.

A 12th victim of the Poppy Day bombing died 13 years later having never woken from a coma.

People like to see the British and Irish government work together and remember together. That can only be good for our individual futures

Mr Heaton-Harris said: “It is an honour to be here in Enniskillen. We’re here to remember the fallen from World Wars one and two, from the various battles and conflicts that we’ve had, and to remember the Poppy Day bomb as well and all the families that suffered.

“It was a lovely service and amazing to see so many people turn out in slightly inclement weather and just good to see the community come together.”

Asked about the presence of Irish Government officials, he added: “It is really important. I think, from what I can gather, people like to see the British and Irish government work together and remember together. That can only be good for our individual futures.”

A politician from Mr Varadkar’s party was also in attendance.

Frank Feighan said: “I’ve always attended the services of Remembrance in appreciation and respect of the Irish men and women from across the island of Ireland who gave the great sacrifice in World War One and many wars after that.

“I think it shows respect and it also shows that it wasn’t unique to this part of the island, and indeed across our two islands.

Asked if the Irish Government presence was controversial, he said: “We have to have an agreed Ireland, we have to respect histories that are different but sometimes unite us as well. I felt that 15-20 years ago in the Republic, that we didn’t pay that respect, that we didn’t remember the sacrifices of many men and women that came from our communities.

“I think that has changed in the last 10 or 15 years.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald was among those scheduled to attend a Remembrance Sunday service at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin hosted by the Royal British Legion.

Ms McDonald said: “This is an important day of reflection for many people on the island. Many Irishmen, from across all 32 counties, died in these conflicts, leaving a profound loss that continues to be felt in many families and communities to this day.

“It is important to recognise all that we share in common and to commemorate our shared history in a respective and inclusive way.

“Such reflections are also a timely reminder of the need for peaceful dialogue to end conflict around the world.”

Several other wreath-laying events and Remembrance ceremonies were held across Northern Ireland.

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