The Enniskillen bomb was a turning point on the road to peace, says Church minister

A minister of the church who exploded the bomb in Enniskillen months after taking office has described the atrocity as a possible turning point in Northern Ireland’s road to peace.

ix of the eleven people killed in the IRA’s infamous Remembrance Sunday attack on November 8, 1987 were members of the Reverend David Cupples’ congregation.

A 12th blast victim, who died years later without recovering from his coma, was also a member of the Enniskillen Presbyterian Church.

Thirty-five years after the Poppy Day bombing, Rev Cupples, who is now nearing retirement, has been reflecting on the day.

“I became Minister on September 1, 1987 and the bomb happened on November 8, 1987, my tenth Sunday,” he said.

“So I was only 30 years old and didn’t know many church members.

“Although I was actually aware of the six people killed and injured that day and the seventh person who died from his injuries a few years later.

“I had been to all their houses and started to get to know them. They were pretty much the center of community life.”

Relatives of those killed and members of the public gathered at 10.43am today, at the exact time of the explosion on November 8, 1987, to commemorate loved ones.

The event took place at a newly built memorial in the city.

Enniskillen Memorial Remembrance Group chair Stella Robinson, whose parents Wesley and Bertha Armstrong were killed in the bomb blast, said it was very important that what happened was remembered.

“My father loved his church, his church came first. My mother was very family oriented, she was a great mother, like our best friend. We miss them, we really do,” she said.

“It is important for future generations that they see what happened and know what happened so that it will not happen again.

“It’s a pain we carry with us all the time and it never goes away.”

No one was ever convicted of the attack.

Rev Cupples added: “Our church building is very close to the Cenotaph, so there is a long tradition of people from the church going to the British Legion ceremony at the Cenotaph and then coming to our service, which we delay by half an hour to have.”

The bomb went off as people gathered at the city’s war memorial for the ceremony.

The device was placed in the library’s reading rooms near the memorial, and the walls of the building collapsed on those waiting for the annual memorial service to begin.

Rev Cupples said it was just coincidence that he was not standing next to the deceased members of his congregation and said he was held up at church to make last-minute preparations for the service later that morning.

“I’ve often wondered why I wasn’t standing with my elders, the members of my church, the young people from Bible class, all lined up on the sidewalk just outside these rooms,” he said.

“And the answer is actually that I was late. I was behind schedule with my preparations for the Sunday morning service.

“So I was sitting in my study, feverishly making final preparations, when I heard the bomb go off.

“And if I had been better prepared, you could say I probably would have been there with them, so I probably wouldn’t be here today.

“Well, it’s one of the mysteries of life, but that’s not why I was there.”

The minister said the bomb was an “overwhelming experience” for the city.

“A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then,” he said.

“My first thoughts go to the families of the deceased. These families were all on separate trips.

“When you think about something like this happening and affecting so many different people, you know there will never be one voice or one way for people to deal with it, and while they are all united in their grief and their longing They have all taken separate trips to commemorate their loved ones.

“I am thinking of them and praying and wondering where they are on their journey to overcoming this pain.”

Rev Cupples said a service was organized at Enniskillen Presbyterian to mark the anniversary to give families the opportunity to “take another step forward in the journey of finding peace and inner healing”.

“On the broader screen, I think many feel that perhaps more than many other atrocities, the Enniskillen bombing exposed the futility of violence,” he said.

“And it could, as the history books are written, prove to be a turning point on the road to greater peace and stability.”

Relatives of those killed have issued a renewed appeal to anyone with information that could help the police investigation.

People are still withholding information about the Enniskillen bomb 35 years later, said the daughter of a retired nurse who was killed in the blast.

Aileen Quinton, whose mother Alberta, 72, was killed in the bombing, said her grief was compounded by attempts to rewrite history.

“It’s still terrible that it happened but what has gotten worse is that people are trying to dismiss it as no longer relevant,” she told the PA news agency.

“People say, ‘Oh, it happened in the past,’ but people still justify it’s still happening, people who don’t give out information about who was responsible, it’s still happening.”

Nobody was ever convicted for the bombing.

Victims are concerned that a UK government bill proposing an effective amnesty for Troubles crimes in exchange for cooperation with a new intelligence gathering agency will close all avenues to justice.

Ms Quinton said: “So far it’s been someone’s free rein.

“It’s hard to be hopeful because the police don’t seem interested. And then we have the government trying to get this horrible legacy law through, but I will never accept or agree that justice will be overlooked or downplayed.

“Justice for the past is essential to prosperity, not just financial prosperity, but emotional and moral prosperity in the future.

“My message is that murder still matters, and even as time has passed, the actual murders may be in the past, but the people who continue to justify them happening in the present, continue to provide no information, happen in the Present.

“Even if someone has information over time, they should present it.”

Kenny Donaldson of victims’ group SEFF called the bombing “one of the most heinous perpetrated in the years of the terror campaign.”

“Attacking people while they’re gathered to commemorate the dead further devalues ​​humanity,” he said.

“Eleven innocent people were slaughtered, with a 12th following 13 years later, and over 60 were physically and/or psychologically injured, but in addition there were several hundred others who were present immediately afterwards as civilians, members of the security forces or first responders.

“At this time, the bereaved families and others hurt as a result of the events of that fateful day must receive justice, truth and accountability for what happened, on this 35th anniversary since this terrorist attack was carried out by the Provisional IRA was committed.

“We are calling on the community and those in possession of information that could lead to the arrest of those responsible to come forward and disclose that information.” The Enniskillen bomb was a turning point on the road to peace, says Church minister

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