Gordon Wilson snubbed by Paisley over Catholic church attendance to remember massacre

Wilson’s call for no loyalist reprisals following Enniskillen bomb atrocity made world headlines, and he was later appointed to the Seanad

Senator Gordon Wilson, who lost his daughter Maire in the Enniskillen bomb, was snubbed by Dr Ian Paisley because he attended a Catholic Church service which remembered the massacre.

Mr Wilson was caught up in the Remembrance Sunday bomb of November 8th, 1987, in which 12 people were killed and 63 injured. His call for no loyalist reprisals following the atrocity made world headlines, and he was later appointed to the Seanad by then taoiseach Albert Reynolds.

In July 1993, shortly after his appointment, he had lunch with assistant secretary at the Anglo-Irish division of the Department of Foreign Affairs Seán Ó hUiginn, at which he “did not conceal a strong resentment at the attitude of the DUP”, Ó hUiginn recalled.

Paisley had “violently denounced” him for attending a remembrance mass at a local Catholic church just after the Enniskillen massacre. Ó hUiginn added: “He had some time subsequently met Paisley in a departure lounge in London airport, but Paisley had cut him dead, which, a little surprisingly, seems to have offended him deeply.”

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Wilson also sought to impress on Ó hUiginn the depths of unionist opposition to a united Ireland “and stressed that people who held such views should not be seen as extremists or fanatics”.

He stressed the level of distrust between Catholics and Protestants in one anecdote which he recalled to Ó hUiginn.

Wilson had a conversation with a “very respectable Protestant” in Fermanagh. “He had asked the man concerned if there were any Catholics he could trust. The categorical reply was that, ‘we are good neighbours. I employ Catholics but there is not one I would trust. I believe every one would knife me in the back’.”

Wilson called for lunch as he was anxious to ensure that he fulfilled his role in the Seanad properly and was not just seen as an emotional appointment. Ó hUiginn assured him there were “no strings attached” to the taoiseach’s appointment and that he was to give personal witness where he saw fit.

Wilson also expressed disappointment that his contacts with representatives of the IRA to get them to renounce violence had been futile. He was still intent on meeting with the representatives of Sinn Féin to “persuade them of the futility of violence and the need to take a different path”.

In his memo Ó hUiginn wrote that he “personally doubted” if Mr Wilson would succeed with Sinn Féin where he had failed with the IRA. “They were as likely to be impervious to purely moral appeals as he had found the IRA representative to be.”

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