NI Fire Service wrong to remove Enniskillen tribute

The News Letter has a report of the Ombudsman’s investigation into the removal of a plaque commemorating the victims of the Enniskillen war memorial bombing. The commemorative plaque, a photographic montage of the people murdered, was placed in Enniskillen fire station where it remained for 19 years until September 2007. Then after an anonymous telephone complaint the fire service removed the tribute apparently within an hour.

Arlene Foster asked the Equality Commission (via an FoI request) whether the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service had asked for their advice prior to the removal of the commemorative montage and it transpired that they had not. Subsequently the NIFRS was reported to the NI Ombudsman.

The ombudsman has now delivered a report critical of the NI Fire Service’s actions.

“At issue here is the credibility of the information which informed the Area Commander, to have the montage removed….and the nature of the response. I do not believe that an uncorroborated complaint alone from an anonymous caller was sufficient to warrant the literally immediate removal of a montage which had been on the wall for nineteen years at the instigation of the staff in recognition of an incident that clearly had a major impact on the staff who had been involved directly in dealing with the awful aftermath. There appears to have been no consideration given to the workforce as a whole in respect of this specific complaint. In this sensitive manner, I find such action to have been ill-considered and not appropriate to the circumstance.”

“I therefore find that the process which led to NIFRS’ decision to remove the montage to have been attended by maladministration.”

A statement from the NIFRS said:

“We accept the findings of the commissioner for complaints that maladministration was applied to our decision. We are sorry for any hurt or anxiety caused by our actions in reaching this decision.
We are pleased that the commissioner accepts that we did not act with any improper motive during our decision-making process. The NIFRS Board will now consider the report and give its recommendations on the content.”

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