Enniskillen Bombing – 10.43am, 8th November 1987 – Shame on the IRA & those that Supported them!

Enniskillen Bombing – Remembrance Day Bombing

floating-poppie-new

Poppy cross
Those who died that day are now remembered at the Cenotaph alongside the names of the war dead they went there to honour

———————————————————————-

The Enniskillen Rememberance Day Massacre

———————————————————————-

The Remembrance Day bombing (also known as the Enniskillen bombing or Poppy Day massacre[1][2]) took place on 8 November 1987 in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. A Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb exploded near the town’s war memorial (cenotaph) during a Remembrance Sunday ceremony, which was being held to commemorate British military war dead. Eleven people (ten civilians and a police officer) were killed and 63 were injured. The IRA said it had made a mistake and that its target had been the British soldiers parading to the memorial. The unit who carried out the bombing was disbanded.

People run from explosion
Enniskillen Remembrance Day bomb

The bombing was strongly condemned by all sides and weakened the IRA’s and Sinn Féin‘s support. It also facilitated the passing of the Extradition Act, which made it easier to extradite IRA suspects from the Republic of Ireland to the United Kingdom. Loyalist paramilitaries responded to the bombing with ‘revenge’ attacks on Catholic civilians.

The bombing has been described as a turning point in the Troubles and an incident that shook the IRA “to its core”.

———————————————————————-

IRA – Reign of Terror

Part 1 of 4 The IRA and the Enniskillen Remembrance Day Bombing – Age of Terror

———————————————————————-

Planning

The bombing was thought by the British and Irish security forces to have involved at least two IRA units, from both sides of the border. Although IRA units were given “a degree of operational autonomy” at the time, they believed that such a bombing must have been sanctioned by IRA Northern Command.

However, a high-ranking IRA member said that it was suggested by IRA men at the local level and sanctioned by a “middle level” officer.

Denzil McDaniel, author of Enniskillen: The Remembrance Sunday Bombing, later interviewed security and IRA contacts, putting together an account of the bombers’ movements. He wrote that the 40-pound (18 kg) bomb was made in Ballinamore, County Leitrim and brought to Enniskillen by up to thirty IRA volunteers, moving in relay teams to avoid security patrols. It is thought to have taken over 24 hours to transport the bomb.

On the night of 7 November, the bomb—hidden in a sports bag—was left at the gable wall inside the town’s Reading Rooms, and set to explode at 10:43 AM the next day, minutes before the ceremony was to start.

———————————————–

Enniskillen Rememberance Day Bombing

———————————————————————-

Explosion

The Cenotaph in 2009.

 

The bomb exploded as a parade of Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers was making its way to the memorial and as people waited for the ceremony to begin.  It blew out the wall of the Reading Rooms—where many of the victims were standing—burying them under rubble and hurling masonry towards the gathered crowd.

Bystanders rushed to free those trapped underneath.

Eleven people were killed, including three married couples. The dead were Wesley and Bertha Armstrong, Kitchener and Jessie Johnston, William and Agnes Mullan, John Megaw, Georgina Quinton, Marie Wilson, Samuel Gault and Edward Armstrong. Edward Armstrong was a serving Royal Ulster Constabulary officer and Gault had recently left the force. Gordon Wilson, whose daughter Marie died in the blast and who was himself injured, went on to become a peace campaigner and member of Seanad Éireann.

The twelfth fatality, Ronnie Hill, died after spending 13 years in a coma. Sixty-three people were injured, including thirteen children.  Ulster Unionist politicians Sammy Foster and Jim Dixon were among the crowd; the latter received extensive head injuries but recovered. A local businessman captured the immediate aftermath of the bombing on video camera. His footage, showing the effects of the bombing, was broadcast on international television.

All the victims were Protestant.

A few hours after the blast, the IRA called a radio station and said it had abandoned a 150-pound (68 kg) bomb in Tullyhommon, 20 miles (32 km) away, after it failed to detonate.  That morning, a Remembrance Sunday parade (which included many members of the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades) had unwittingly gathered near the Tullyhommon bomb.Soldiers and RUC officers had also been there, and the IRA said it triggered the bomb when soldiers were standing beside it.It was defused by security forces and was found to have a command wire leading to a ‘firing point’ across the border.

Reactions

The IRA apologised, saying it had made a mistake and that the target had been the UDR soldiers who were parading to the memorial.

Image result for Denzil McDaniel, author of Enniskillen

Denzil McDaniel, author of Enniskillen: The Remembrance Sunday Bombing, commented:

“I don’t believe the IRA set out to specifically kill civilians. I think they made mistakes, probably with their intelligence on the time-table for the service, but the IRA was reckless about civilian life”.

Image result for RUC Detective Chief Superintendent Norman Baxter

RUC Detective Chief Superintendent Norman Baxter said:

“Their intention was to inflict casualties. The only mistake in the operation was that the bomb went off before the parade arrived”.

Many nationalists were horrified by the bombing and described it as a blow to the republican cause. Sinn Féin’s weekly newspaper, An Phoblacht, criticised the bombing on tactical grounds, calling it a “monumental error” that would strengthen the IRA’s opponents.

The IRA disbanded the unit responsible.

The bombing led to an outcry among politicians in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. The then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said:

“It’s really desecrating the dead and a blot on mankind”.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Tom King, denounced the “outrage” in the House of Commons,[8] as did the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Lenihan in Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament), while in Seanad Éireann Senator Maurice Manning spoke of people’s “total revulsion”.

Many public figures used terms such as ‘barbarism’ and ‘savagery’ to describe the bombing.

The bombing was seen by many Northern Irish Protestants as an attack on them, and loyalists ″retaliated″ with attacks on Catholic civilians. The day after, five Catholic teenagers were wounded in a shooting in Belfast, and a Protestant teenager was killed by the Ulster Defence Association after being mistaken for a Catholic.

In the week after the bombing, there were 14 gun and bomb attacks on Catholics in Belfast.

Irish band U2 were holding a concert in Denver, Colorado the same day. During a performance of their song “Sunday Bloody Sunday“, singer Bono passionately condemned the bombing, stating “fuck the revolution” in his mid-song speech, as well as criticising the armchair republicanism of many Irish-Americans and stating that the majority of people in the Republic of Ireland did not support the IRA. The footage is included in U2’s rockumentary Rattle and Hum.

Long-term results

The Clinton Centre, which was built in 2002 on the site of the bomb.

 

At the time, the British and Irish governments were negotiating an Extradition Act that would make it easier to extradite IRA suspects from the Republic to the UK. The Act was to come before the Irish parliament less than a month after the bombing.

The Irish government wanted the British to reform the justice system in Northern Ireland (such as by abolishing “Diplock courts“) before it would pass the Act. Many in the Republic insisted that the Act should only be passed if, and when, the reforms took place. However, after the bombing, opposition to the Act dwindled and it was passed by the Irish government, albeit with some changes.

The bombing harmed Sinn Féin’s electoral support.  In 1989, in the first local elections held in County Fermanagh after the bombing, Sinn Féin lost four of its eight council seats and was overtaken by the SDLP as the biggest Irish nationalist party It was not until 2001, fourteen years after the bombing, that Sinn Féin support returned to its 1985 level.

In 1997, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams apologised for the bombing on behalf of the republican movement.

Enniskillen’s Remembrance Day service was re-staged two weeks after the bombing, and attended by about 5,000 people, including British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The site of the bomb, which was owned by the Catholic Church, was rebuilt as The Clinton Centre, a youth hostel, in 2002. The hostel was opened by and named after former US President Bill Clinton.

 The Innocent Victims

floating-poppie-new

Princess Diana visits casualty in hospital
Princess Di Visiting Victims

———————————————————

08 November 1987


Edward Armstrong,   (52)

Protestant
Status: Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Off duty. Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987


Marie Wilson,  (20)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987


Samuel Gault,   (49)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987

Georgina Quinton,   (72)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987


John Megaw,   (68)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987


Wesley Armstrong,   (62)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987


Bertha Armstrong,   (53)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987


William Mullan,   (72)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987


Agnes Mullan,   (70)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987


Kit Johnston,   (70)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987


Jessie Johnston,   (66)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by time bomb which exploded near war memorial, during Remembrance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

———————————————————

08 November 1987


Ronnie Hill, (68)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Injured when time bomb exploded near war memorial, during Rememberance Day ceremony, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. He died 28 December 2000, after being in a coma since the incident.

———————————————————

Enniskillen bombing

See BBC News for full story & background information

“‘Daddy, I love you very much’. Those were the exact words she spoke to me, and those were the last words I heard her say”. Gordon Wilson was speaking shortly after the death of his daughter, Marie, who was killed by the Provisional IRA bomb at the Cenotaph in Enniskillen on Sunday 8 November 1987.

As the explosion ripped the heart out of the town, it killed a further ten innocent bystanders. Five of the victims were women, and there were three married couples among the dead. All of those killed were Protestants, and all but one (a police reservist) were civilians.

Sixty-three others were injured in the blast, including thirteen children. A twelfth victim, Ronnie Hill, died in December 2000 after spending 13 years in a coma as a result of injuries sustained in the bombing.

Why?

Situated close to the border with the Republic of Ireland, Enniskillen was an easy target that offered the terrorists a ready escape route. The timing of the attack was also significant, coming in the wake of some major setbacks for the IRA. These included the killing of eight IRA men by the SAS during an attack on a police station in Loughgall and the seizing of a huge arms shipment from Libya.

Condemnation

The bombing was widely condemned. The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, said that “there should be no hiding place in any country for these people” and described the bombing as “a desecration”, “utterly barbaric” and “a blot on mankind”. The Irish Taioseach, Charles Haughey, stated: “The culprits must be utterly repudiated and brought to justice.”

International condemnation included official statements from Russia and, significantly, Libya. Under the rule of Colonel Gaddafi, Libya had provided the IRA with support and a steady supply of weapons, including the plastic explosive used in the bombing of Enniskillen. A Libyan Press Association statement said: “Libya is aware of the difference between legitimate revolutionary action and terrorism aimed at civilians and innocent people. This action does not belong to the legitimate revolutionary operation.”

The scale of this condemnation prompted the IRA to release a statement the following day expressing their “deep regret” at the results of the blast. At the same time, they claimed the bomb may have been detonated by the army scanning high frequencies in a security operation prior to the Remembrance Day parade. This claim was later admitted to be false.

It also transpired that the IRA had targeted the village of Tullyhommon, 20 miles from Enniskillen, on that Remembrance Sunday. The bomb at Tullyhommon was four times the size of the Enniskillen device. Had it exploded, members of the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades would have been caught up in the carnage.

Retaliation and reconciliation

Loyalist paramilitaries were intent on retaliation – but were largely dissuaded by the words of Gordon Wilson in an interview broadcast the following day. “I have lost my daughter, and we shall miss her”, he said, “but I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie, she loved her profession, she was a pet. She’s dead, she’s in heaven, and we’ll meet again.”

Some of the victims did not share Gordon Wilson’s sentiments about the bombers and were frustrated that the media focused almost solely on him. Yet Mr Wilson’s words touched many hearts at home and abroad. They also effected a spirit of reconciliation among the people of Enniskillen when fear and confrontation might just have easily taken hold.

A fortnight after the bombing, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher joined seven thousand others for a second Remembrance Day service at the war memorial in Enniskillen.

Turning point

The IRA lost support worldwide immediately after the Enniskillen bombing. Crucially, the Gadaffi regime in Libya withdrew their support and with it the supply of weapons and ammunition that had been planned to sustain the ‘Long War’. The leadership of Sinn Féin, the political wing of the republican movement in Northern Ireland, sought greater engagement with mainstream politics.

In Enniskillen itself, the Catholic community put pressure on the SDLP (the mainstream nationalist party) to stop its policy of supporting Sinn Féin for the posts of chairman and deputy chairman on the Fermanagh District Council. The SDLP were forced instead to support unionist candidates. The move helped to improve community relations, as did the work of the ‘Enniskillen Together’ group, set up to further the cause of reconciliation in the area.

Perhaps the most significant political consequence of the Enniskillen bombing was the resumption of talks between the SDLP leader John Hume and Gerry Adams. In his role as leader of Sinn Féin, Adams had condemned the bombing and resolved to step up the republican movement’s involvement in electoral politics. Although Hume received little support for the move, it paved the way for formal talks between the two parties and the beginnings of the ‘peace process’ that would eventually lead to the cessation of violence and the Good Friday Agreement.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Enniskillen Bombing – 10.43am, 8th November 1987 – Shame on the IRA & those that Supported them!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s