Blair and Major unite in grief

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The Independent Online


The nation will unite tomorrow in silent grief and sympathy for the victims of the Dunblane massacre.

Suggestions that there should be a minute's silence on Mothers' Day to commemorate the dead were met immediately by an enormous groundswell of public support and unqualified backing from John Major.

The Prime Minister and the Labour leader, Tony Blair, buried party differences yesterday to represent the nation when they visited Stirling Royal Infirmary, one of the hospitals that dealt with the aftermath of the carnage.

Visibly shaken, the two politicians offered their thanks to the medical teams who treated Hamilton's victims, and visited the child survivors of class primary one.

For many staff the visit was highly emotional: many burst into tears. Some hugged each other as they wept. The two politicians, wearing black ties, battled to retain their composure, and at one point Mr Blair seemed overcome.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by his wife, Norma, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Forsyth. Their arrival, together with Mr Blair and George Robertson, shadow Scottish Secretary, in one of the hospital's large conference rooms triggered an outpouring of emotion. Around 50 of the doctors, nurses paramedics and ambulance teams that had been on duty on Wednesday met again for the first time since the massacre and for many the occasion proved too much; many broke into tears and audible sobs.

After the visit, the Prime Minister told reporters of his admiration for the hospital staff. "Over the last few days this community and this hospital have had to deal with a horror of almost unimaginable proportions. They have had to face an horrific job and have done it with immense skill and dedication."

The Labour leader echoed Mr Major's sentiments, praising hospital staff and the police for their dedication to duty. "It has been a quite remarkable coming together and I hope in some small way our both coming here in unity together will symbolise the unity of the country and that of the people of the world who have sympathy and respect for the people of Dunblane."

The leaders spent almost an hour and a half with the children, their families and hospital staff before leaving to visit the scene of the massacre itself at Dunblane Primary School. Mr Major announced immediately that the scene of the massacre should be demolished.

The Queen also paid tribute to the people of Dunblane in a speech yesterday. Buckingham Palace announced that she had decided to bring forward to tomorrow her visit to the town, after hearing that some families will be holding funerals on Monday.

The Pope yesterday condemned the massacre as senseless violence and said he was "profoundly saddened" by the killings. A telegram to Bishop Vincent Logan of Dunkeld said: "The Holy Father offers fervent prayers for the families and friends of the victims and for all mourning their loss. He invokes God's consolations upon all those suffering as a result of this senseless violence and he sends this blessing."