Enniskillen forgets its past horrors to welcome the Queen
• The Queen begins her visit to Northern Ireland with Enniskillen service
• Northern Irish town was the site of an explosion on Remembrance Day 1987, killing 11 people
• The Queen is due to meet with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness on Wednesday
Clergy from both communities marked the Queen’s 60-year reign by staging events in Enniskillen – where an explosion killed 11 people on Remembrance Day in 1987.
A service of thanksgiving was held in an Anglican Cathedral, and a few yards across the street the Queen made history by visiting a Roman Catholic church for the first time in either Northern Ireland or the Republic.
The move was another symbolic step in the improvement of Anglo-Irish relations which will take a huge leap forward when the Queen shakes hands with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in Belfast today.
Mr McGuinness, Stormont’s deputy first minister, has described the meeting as “stretching out the hand of peace and reconciliation”.
Canon Peter O’Reilly, of St Michael’s Roman Catholic church, and the Very Rev Kenny Hall, Dean of St Macartin’s Cathedral, co-operated to deliver the historic cross-community event at their neighbouring churches.
Canon O’Reilly said: “My reading of the significance of today is that it is an expression of the unity that there is in this place – a Fermanagh welcome, a gracious Queen, a lovely lady.”
Mr Hall said: “We have worked together to make this a success. And what we are really sending out is a message that we really are one community.”
In his thanksgiving service sermon, the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Rev Alan Harper, praised the Queen’s ground-breaking visit to the Republic of Ireland last year, which had done much to build bridges on both sides of the border.
Her conciliatory words and gestures had allowed many to throw off the shackles that had been loosening since 1998’s Good Friday Agreement, and to “positively” be themselves, he said.
The archbishop told the congregation that the tour had great importance: “For many it was an occasion of profound significance and deep emotion. It felt like the completion of an assent, at the highest level, to a process announcing a new day for all the people of this island.”
The Queen met seven survivors of the Enniskillen bombings privately in the cathedral’s deanery for around 15 minutes.
She then made the short walk to St Michael’s, filled with local community groups. It was her 20th visit to Northern Ireland since her coronation, but she has never entered a Roman Catholic place of worship.
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