Man of vision ‘had a huge impact on life in Fermanagh’

MOURNERS at the funeral of Gerry Burns, the former Fermanagh District Council chief executive heard his son John describe him as ‘selfless and kind’, an example to his children in how to love and care for each other.
Those words were met with a round of applause by the congregation at the Requiem Mass in St Michael’s Church in Enniskillen, paying their respects to Mr Burns, who died at the age of 85 after  a short illness. 
His son John said the large congregation showed the high regard in which he was held.
“As with many things in life he had a positive impact on Enniskillen and the wider Fermanagh area, for which he had worked tirelessly,” he said. 
Addressing the mourners , Fr Raymond Donnelly who was assisted by Canon Pat McEntee, Deacon Michael Donnelly described him as humble and considerate and always brought a peaceful word to a difficult situation.
He was born in Milford Street, west Belfast and received his early education at St Mary’s CBS before taking up various office jobs before returning to full time education at Queen’s University where he studied economics. 
Gerry went on to teach at Armagh Technical College and in 1976 he was appointed chief executive of Fermanagh District Council.
“He took on a very challenging position with a vision and a determination,” said Fr Donnelly.
“His focus was on making life better for the people of Enniskillen and I know he was proud of his achievements like the Ardhowen Theatre, the redevelopment of the Townhall, the Buttermarket and the shopping centre, to name but a few,” he added.
In retirement he took up positions such as Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, and was author of the Burns Report post-primary review in 2001 
He received two honorary doctorates from Queen’s and University of Ulster and was honoured with an OBE.
He was pre-deceased by his wife Moyra. 
He is survived by his sons Gerry, Declan and John, daughters Yvanna and Nuala and a sister Una. 
Burial took place at Cross Cemetery following Requiem Mass.
Tributes to ‘century’s most influential man’
TRIBUTES to the former Fermanagh District Council Chief Executive poured in.
Local architect Richard Pierce said, “I held Gerry in the highest possible esteem. 
“He was a visionary who put progress before tribe and gave Fermanagh a more civilised, mature reputation than the rest of Northern Ireland. 
“In my opinion, he was the most positive and influential person in this county in the 20th century,” Mr Pierce  said.
Former Council Chairman Raymond Ferguson recalled that Mr Burns 
was the first chief executive of the district council. 
“He was a man of ideas. He was the principal driver behind many projects in Fermanagh including the Ardhowen Theatre. He was a true visionary.”
“He had a tremendous way of sourcing funds for projects and it was pure genius and Fermanagh is so much better for it,” said Mr Ferguson. 
Former councillor John O’Kane who sat in the Chamber from 1981 said Mr Burns was ‘a force to be reckoned with’.
“His ideas were ahead of the time. The legacy he has left around this county is fantastic and everything that was achieved is a real tribute to him.
“He was a mover and a shaker when it came to projects helping to acquire the site for Dunnes Stores and the development of Necarne to name but a few,” said the Irvinestown based former councillor. 
Turning to the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bomb Mr O’Kane said it brought many difficulties.
“But his relationship with Gordon Wilson and the initiating of the ‘Spirit of Enniskillen’ project helped lead to a calmness and provide some hope for the future. 
“He was a good listener and just a gem.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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