Queen Elizabeth meets victims of IRA bombing

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee visit to Northern Ireland began in Enniskillen

The Queen has met relatives of the victims of an IRA bombing in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, 25 years ago.

Enniskillen was the scene of one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles when 11 people were killed on Remembrance Sunday in 1987.

The Queen and Prince Philip are on a two-day visit to Northern Ireland as part of her Diamond Jubilee tour.

The royal couple are staying overnight at Hillsborough Castle.

Earlier they also attended a service of thanksgiving to mark her 60-year reign.

The meeting with Enniskillen bomb families included those injured in the atrocity.

Stephen Gault was injured in the bombing and his father, Samuel, was killed.

He said he was honoured to have met the Queen.

"It highlights the point that the Enniskillen victims will not be forgotten, when Her Majesty the Queen made time in her hectic schedule, in her Jubilee year to come to Enniskillen," he said.

He said he was "not that bothered" about the prospect of former IRA leader and Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness shaking the monarch's hand "as long as it didn't happen in Enniskillen".

"I would have been a bridge too far to actually have the handshake in Enniskillen... after what happened in 1987," he said.

Earlier, thousands of people lined the streets to welcome the couple after their flight was delayed for about an hour due to bad weather.

The Queen was wearing a Wedgwood blue crepe outfit by royal designer Angela Kelly, complemented by a shamrock diamond brooch.

Analysis

By visiting the western tip of the United Kingdom, the Queen was making a point about history as well as geography.

Enniskillen will be forever remembered as the town that endured one of the worst IRA atrocities of the Troubles.

The Queen's trip to the County Fermanagh town - and her meeting with relatives of the victims - showed she had not forgotten.

The visit was also a chance for County Fermanagh people to catch a glimpse of one of the most famous faces in the world. Thousands lined the streets.

The jovial atmosphere was summed up by the banner "Go Lizzie Go".

The service of thanksgiving at St Macartin's Cathedral in Enniskillen was attended by more than 700 people including senior Protestant and Catholic clergy.

The lesson was read by First Minister Peter Robinson.

The Prayers of Intercession were led by Reverend Ken Lindsay, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland, Catholic Primate of Ireland Sean Brady and the Right Reverend Dr Roy Patton Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The sermon was delivered by the Most Reverend Alan Harper OBE, Archbishop of Armagh, who went on to pronounce The Blessing.

Archbishop Harper praised the Queen's visit to the Republic of Ireland last year.

He said 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.

The Right Reverend John McDowell, led the Diamond Jubilee Prayer, which had been written at the Queen's direction by the Chapter of St. Paul's Cathedral for Her Majesty's Jubilee.

After the service, the Queen met about 100 people at St Michael's Catholic church in the town. It is believed to be the first time the Queen has visited a Catholic church in Ireland.

Among those present were Cardinal Brady as well as local children and representatives from a number of sectors including sport, farming and business.

The Queen later visited the new £276m South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen which opened last week, and had an opportunity to meet patients and staff.

She then unveiled a plaque marking the official opening of the hospital.

Thousands of people lined the streets to welcome the couple

At Hillsborough Castle, her official residence in Northern Ireland, the monarch unveiled a statue to the mythical, warrior poet, Óisín.

The Queen will meet Sinn Fein's Mr McGuinness at an arts event in Belfast on Wednesday.

The event is being hosted by Co-Operation Ireland.

Its chief executive, former senior police officer Peter Sheridan, said the handshake would be hugely significant.

"Even the most visionary among us would never have imagined that Her Majesty and the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness would be meeting in a handshake," he said.

"I think that is hugely significant - I don't think any of us could ever have imagined that.

"The very fact that is happening says a lot, not just about healing and reconciliation, but also about a coming together.

"I think at the end of tomorrow all of us will have realised that things have changed and that we are in life beyond conflict."

The Irish Republic's head of state, President Michael D Higgins, and Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson will also be at the event.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, who is accompanying Her Majesty during her trip, previously said her Stormont visit would have been "unthinkable" years ago.

The two-day visit is the Queen's 20th trip to Northern Ireland.

Some protests by dissident republicans have been expected, but an anti-royal demonstration in Belfast at the weekend only attracted about 300 people.

The Queen's ground-breaking four-day visit to the Irish Republic last year cemented a new era in British-Irish relations.

In spite of speculation that the handshake between Mr McGuinness and the Queen would be off-camera, Mr McGuinness said he had no objection to the encounter being photographed.

  • There will be live coverage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee visit at 14:45 BST on BBC 2 and Radio Ulster on Wednesday, with live streaming online.

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