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.”

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