15/08/2008

Unsolved Omagh Massacre Case Remembered

Harsh memories will be stirred today as a memorial service is held to mark the 10th anniversary of the Omagh bombing.

The Real IRA car bomb attack, which killed 29 people and unborn twins and injured dozens more, was the worst single atrocity of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Making things worse is the fact that a decade on, no one has been brought to account for the 500lb car bomb in the crowded Omagh High Street.

In the hunt for the perpetrators, the then PM, Tony Blair said they would be "pursued to the utmost" with the then Northern Ireland Secretary of State and the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary both pledging that "no stone would be left unturned".

"We are at one as to what is required," then Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern also told the Irish parliament.

There was "complete unity of purpose between the British and the Irish authorities", said Mr Blair; cross-border co-operation between the RUC [now the Police Service of Northern Ireland] and Garda Siochana would be "unprecedented".

But none of this has come to pass and the killers have never been caught and police have faced criticism over their handling of the investigation.

Worse still, the PSNI Chief Constable has even said he is frustrated that no one has been convicted of the Omagh bombing.

Sir Hugh Orde was commenting on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the atrocity when he said it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever be convicted of the atrocity.

"Unless we get something new, it is highly unlikely that the families will ever get a successful judicial outcome in terms of a criminal trial."
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One well-known face since the bomb is Michael Gallagher, (pictured) whose son, Aiden, died in the blast.

He said moving on with life has been "very difficult": "When I look at Aiden's friends and I see some of them married and have a family, I would imagine that would have been the way Aiden was," he said.

"Life would have been very different for all of us."

There remains further contention as well. Some relatives of the victims are unhappy with the way Omagh District Council has decided to word inscriptions on the memorials at the bomb site in Market Street and at the nearby Garden of Remembrance, because they claim it does not properly acknowledge who was behind the attack.

They are to hold their own ceremony on Sunday - with local clergy only agreeing to attend after adverse publicity - as they had first decided only to attend today's 'official' event.

They had originally stated that they would only be attending a service on Friday - the date of the Real IRA bomb - organised by Omagh District Council (crest, pictured) - and seen as the 'official' commemoration event.

The family-run Omagh Support and Self Help group, which is organising the Sunday event, had heavily criticised the clergy for turning down its invite.

However, Monsignor Joseph Donnelly, from the Catholic church in Omagh, said he and the other church leaders had decided to re-examine the issue once it became clear a number of families would not be attending the Friday event.

See: Clergy Do 'U-Turn' On Omagh Bomb Sunday Service

(BMcC)

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