Enniskillen finds hope among ruins

`THE spirit of Enniskillen is one of hope,'' says Gerald Burns, the town clerk and treasurer of the Enniskillen Appeal Fund. The fund was established in the wake of a bomb blast that shattered a Remembrance Day ceremony in this Northern Irish border town one year ago. In the past 12 months, the fund has received more than $1,320,000 from donors as far apart as Karachi, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Europe and the British Isles.

On Nov. 11 last year, 11 people died and more than 60 were badly injured when a bomb planted by the outlawed Irish Republican Army went off prematurely and ripped through a large crowd of civilians gathered around the town's cenotaph.

One year later, the tragedy is not forgotten as Enniskillen, a neat market town in countryside near the Irish border, goes about its business.

If it's true that the hope for the future lies with the young, then the school pupils of Enniskillen offer an encouraging sign for this island.

The government has set aside $300,000 to create traveling bursaries for young people. Under the ``spirit of Enniskillen'' scheme, to which the American-Ireland Fund has contributed $100,000, a number of young people from all over Northern Ireland will be able to travel abroad to other areas of conflict where people have worked out some modus vivendi. It is hoped that participants in the scheme will bring home some of these ideas and apply them to their own society.

Another note of hope can be seen among the boys of two local schools. Boys from the Portora Royal School, which is mainly Protestant, meet regularly with their Roman Catholic counterparts from St. Michael's College. Portora Royal School numbers and its old boys Oscar Wilde and playwright Samuel Beckett.

The boys are less concerned with this kind of history than with joint ventures such as rowing, a popular sport on the nearby waters of Lough Erne.

Close links between the two schools had been established for years. But after the Enniskillen bomb blast, the links were increased and boys now meet regularly for rowing competition and practice.

``We did not make any dramatic gestures after the Enniskillen bombing,'' notes Richard Bennett, Portora's headmaster, ``because in many ways dramatic gestures do not last. Instead we built on the links we had already made because we believe that keeping the small things going is a much better way to tackle this kind of thing.''

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