Omagh bomb victim’s family urge political agreement on anniversary

Family and relatives gather at the service. Picture: PA
Family and relatives gather at the service. Picture: PA
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The father of one of the Omagh bombing victims marked the 20th anniversary of the explosion by urging Northern Ireland’s political leaders to reach agreement so “we can move forward”.

Michael Gallagher’s son Aiden was one of the 29 people killed in the blast, who included a woman pregnant with twins, when a Real IRA car bomb ripped through Omagh on 15 August, 1998.

In his speech at the inter-denominational remembrance service yesterday, Mr Gallagher also paid tribute to all the victims of the 30-year Northern Ireland conflict, including the La Mon Hotel IRA bombing which killed members of a local Collie Club in 1978.

Relatives of the dead gathered in the memorial garden where they sat opposite the reflecting pool in the Co Tyrone town.

Friends and families of the victims, who came from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, England and Spain, also laid flowers and wreaths.

The atrocity was claimed by a republican splinter group which called itself the Real IRA.

Mr Gallagher, who is the spokesman for Omagh Support and Self Help Group, said in his closing speech that as a small province, Northern Ireland was facing its greatest challenges ahead.

“We would appeal to the political parties to seek agreement so that we can move forward,” he said.

“Working alone we can achieve very little, but in collaborative adventures we can achieve a great deal.

“We as a community have paid the highest price, let us not forget we need to make this work, showing strength, courage and leadership.”

Former Omagh Council chief executive John McKinney told the families and friends of those who were killed that they have showed “courage and leadership”.

“It was a struggle, a daily struggle, and I’m sure 20 years is more like 100 years,” he said.

“It’s also encouraging to see such a tremendous turnout, not just today, but over the last 20 years.

“That’s an indication of the spirit of the people of Omagh, the co-operation of the people of Omagh and the support they give and continue to give.

“We can all remember, the hope we had in our minds and hearts from 1995 to 1998, the hope for a better place, a hope that would grow together, a hope for reconciliation.

“Unfortunately, I regret to say, that reconciliation never really happened.”

The memorial service, Out of Darkness, included musicians, readers, singers and clergy from a number of religious denominations.

The Omagh Community Youth Choir included Cara McGillion, 17, the daughter of Donna Marie and Garry, who were seriously injured in the attack.