Taoiseach to visit war memorial in Belgium

President Michael D Higgins lays a wreath at St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, for the British Legion's annual service of remembrance. Pic: Arthur Carron

Taoiseach Enda Kenny will join British prime minister on a visit to a First World War memorial in Belgium next month.

The news came shortly after Mr Kenny laid awreath for the war dead on Remembrance Sunday in Northern Ireland.

He told the BBC the visit to Messines and the Menin Gate had been planned since the Queen’s visit to Dublin in 2011 and added that the visit will be a recognition of the role of Irish soldiers in the First World War.

The memorial site at Messines is also known as the Irish Peace Park or the Irish Peace Tower. It is dedicated to all the soldiers of Ireland who died, were wounded, or went missing in the war.

Earlier, the Fine Gael leader attended a solemn ceremony at the memorial in Enniskillen — where the IRA killed 11 people in a Poppy Day bomb in 1987 — amid the lakelands of Co Fermanagh.

Enniskillen was marking the 26th anniversary of the no-warning blast.

Relatives of the victims of the IRA attack also laid tributes.

Those who died were all Protestant and included three married couples, a reserve police officer, and several pensioners. Former headmaster Ronnie Hill died 13 years after being injured in the attack.

The youngest victim was nurse Marie Wilson, 20, whose father, Gordon Wilson, subsequently said he had prayed for those behind the attack.

Taoiseach to visit war memorial in Belgium

Cork County Mayor Cllr Noel O’Connor laying a wreath during the Service of Remembrance at the war memorial on South Mall, Cork. Pic: David Keane

Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers laid a poppy wreath at the Co Fermanagh memorial, which was rebuilt after the bomb, as did local Stormont Assembly members Arlene Foster and Tom Elliott.

In Belfast, Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, attended a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph beside the city hall.

The event was jointly organised by Belfast City Council and the Royal British Legion.

Soldiers from the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) divisions fought in the First World War’s Battle of the Somme between Jul 1 and Nov 13, 1916.

Mr Gilmore said: “It is both important and appropriate that I am here today in Belfast to respectfully remember those Irishmen and women, from all communities and from both parts of the island, who died in conflict.”

The Taoiseach said he had been moved by meeting relatives of the Enniskillen dead and those injured by the blast.

“It was something that made an impact on me when I came here. I think it was appreciated by the groups that I met.”

He said the continuing impact of atrocities such as Enniskillen demonstrated the need to deal with the consequences of the past and the importance of encouraging reconciliation.

“It says we should continue to work together to bring a sense of understanding and justice to those victims of the atrocious bomb in Enniskillen and in a broader sense to define what it means for the victims of terrorism right across the board.”

More on this topic

Taoiseach lays wreath in Enniskillen on Remembrance SundayTaoiseach lays wreath in Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday

Taoiseach and President to attend Remembrance eventsTaoiseach and President to attend Remembrance events

Russia, China and Iran actions could inadvertently lead to war, says UK Defence ChiefRussia, China and Iran actions could inadvertently lead to war, says UK Defence Chief

Minister honoured to attend Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Belfast Minister honoured to attend Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Belfast


REVIEW: This superb adaptation of A Christmas Carol puts a contemporary twist on Dickens' classic tale, writes Alan O'RiordanReview: A Christmas Carol, Gate Theatre, Dublin

Move over quinoa.Everything you need to know about fonio, the ancient grain we’ll all be eating in 2020

The former heptathlete and all-round super woman chats to Lauren Taylor about how to stay fit in pregnancy and body confidence after a baby.Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill: ‘There’s still a lot of stigma attached to exercising pregnant’

Behaving aggressively is a stage many toddlers go through. The author of The Wonder Weeks explains how parents should deal with kids who kick & bite.Ask an expert: How can I stop my toddler kicking and biting?

More From The Irish Examiner