Category: Archive

…and Prayer

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — A silence descended on Omagh at 3.10 on Sunday afternoon, broken only by sobs and the sound of the wind sweeping through a town that has seen more tears in the last year than it ever believed possible.

Thousands flocked to the town in a show of solidarity with those who had lost loved-ones, or had been injured in the August 15 bombing which took place at 3.06 p.m. a year earlier.

Claire Gallagher, who was blinded, and Donna Marie McGillion, whose wedding was delayed by her horrific facial injuries, were there along with the parents and children of others killed in the bombing.

Church bells started the ceremony, followed by prayers and music and the one minute’s silence at 3.10 p.m. Speeches in English, Irish and Spanish brought a few minutes comfort to those whose grief will never end.

Among the dignitaries present were the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, the junior Irish Foreign Affairs minister, Liz O’Donnell, SDLP Leader John Hume, Pat Doherty of Sinn Féin, and Willie Thompson, the local Ulster Unionist MP.

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Others who took part in the service included Rita Restorick, whose son, Stephen, was the last British soldier killed in the North, and Margaret McKinney, whose son, Brian, was one of the so-called "disappeared" whose body was recently uncovered.

The Church of Ireland bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Dr. James Mehaffey, said that no other monument would be adequate other than a lasting peace.

"They need a permanent memorial, not so much of bricks and mortar but by the establishing of peace," he said.

There were prayers in English, Irish and Spanish in Omagh, while in Buncrana, Co. Donegal, there was another service with more tears and heartfelt pleas for peace. Three young boys and two Spanish visitors from the Co. Donegal town also died in the blast last year.

Hunt for the bombers

Meanwhile, the hunt for the bombers, members of the Real IRA, goes on. Gárda officers and RUC men met in Omagh last week to assess their investigations and pool information.

Although the two forces believed they have identified those responsible, because of lack of evidence they may never be brought to justice, they say. An outside British police officer has been brought in to monitor the inquiry, a routine development for such a large operation.

The forensic work is completed, four thousand witnesses have been questioned, and police believe up to 60 people were involved in the bombing or had advance knowledge the attack was being planned.

Most of the 60 have been questioned, some twice, and the RUC believe they have — more or less — established where and who assembled the three hundred and fifty pound bomb.

The bombmaker, they say, lives in south Armagh and was responsible for five other large bombings before Omagh, but in spite of all this, only one man has been charged and both the gárdaí and RUC believe that unless there’s a breakthrough, the killers may remain outside the reach of the courts.

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