Pol­i­tics:

‘Fa­ther of one of the vic­tims killed in blast urges po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to reach agree­mentl Rel­a­tives of the dead gather in the memo­rial gar­den on 20th an­niver­sary

The Irish Times - - Front Page -

The fa­ther of one of the Omagh bomb­ing vic­tims has urged North­ern Ire­land’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers to reach agree­ment.

The fa­ther of one of the Omagh bomb­ing vic­tims has 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 August 15th, 1998.

In his speech at the in­ter-de­nom­i­na­tional re­mem­brance ser­vice, Mr Gal­lagher also paid trib­ute to all the vic­tims of the North­ern 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 yes­ter­day.

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

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

Chal­lenges ahead

Mr Gal­lagher, who is the spokesman for Omagh Sup­port and Self Help Group, said in his clos­ing speech that 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 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.

“But if some peo­ple ac­tu­ally looked at what is hap­pen­ing in this town and what hap­pens ev­ery year, we see the diver­sity, the in­ter-de­nom­i­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion, and peo­ple com­ing to­gether, then per­haps that might give some guid­ance.”

He added that Mr Gal­lagher and his group had fought for jus­tice.

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

Min­is­ter for Health Si­mon Har­ris, Po­lice Ser­vice of North­ern Ire­land Chief Con­sta­ble

‘‘ Work­ing alone we can achieve very lit­tle, but in col­lab­o­ra­tive ad­ven­tures we can achieve a great deal’

Ge­orge Hamil­ton and the North’s former om­buds­man Baroness Nuala O’Loan were among those at­tend­ing the event.

Prayers were also said in Span­ish and Ir­ish, and a minute’s si­lence was held for all the vic­tims.

Mr Gal­lagher thanked the com­mu­nity ser­vices and groups for their help in or­gan­is­ing the memo­rial.

“A com­mu­nal in­ter-de­nom­i­na­tional wor­ship has been well sup­ported over the last 20 years and it makes a pow­er­ful state­ment about the com­mu­nity in Omagh,” he added.–

PHO­TO­GRAPH: : PA

had shown “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 seeOmagh Com­mu­nity Choir per­form­ing at the Memo­rial Gar­dens in Omagh to re­mem­ber the Omagh bomb­ing 20 years on.

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