Omagh remembers: 20th anniversary of a nightmare
by Ludovica TORRESIN for Shared Future News
12 August 2018
Twenty years after the bombing, Omagh remembers the tragedy of 15 August 1998. That day 29 people died, including a woman pregnant with two twins, and seven children, with more than 200 injured physically and psychologically.
To remember the victims the Omagh citizens, the authorities, the clergy, and many others gathered in the Garden of Light to join the cross-community memorial service.
Michael Gallagher, the father of one of the victims and spokesperson of Omagh Support and Self Help Group, opened the ceremony by welcoming those present and introducing the other speakers, representatives of the various organisations, and the delegations of Spain and Ireland. He described the bombing as “an absolute nightmare” and reminded everyone of the importance of remembering those who were killed during the conflict and encouraged the political parties to sustain the reconciliation process:
“We must never forget those who have paid the price for peace.”
Sarri Singer, survivor of a bombing in Israel and founder of Strength to Strength (New York), spoke next. Representing victims of terrorism from around the world, she expressed her solidarity and support towards the Omagh community:
“We all share an experience that bonds us for life. And no matter how far apart we are, no matter what country we live in, we are all connected; we are all there for each other and you are never alone”.
Pax Christi read the Roll of Honour, which included the names of all the victims and mentioned those who were injured. At the end of the list, a minute of silence was held.
Various members of the clergy read passages of the Bible, and Bishop John McDowell led the blessing. The Omagh Community Youth Choir and the St Eugene’s Brass and Reed Band accompanied the celebration with songs written for the occasion.
John McKinney (former Chief Executive of Omagh District Council) and Alan Rainey (former Vice Chair, Omagh District Council) were present. Rainey, who headed the Council’s response in the aftermath of the Omagh bomb, highlighted the strength and courage shown by the victim’s families during the last 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”.
In his closing speech, Michael Gallagher remembered the daily struggle and the challenges that Northern Ireland faces in achieving reconciliation and outlined the importance of seeking it every day:
“Working alone we can achieve very little, but in collaborative ventures we can achieve a great deal.”
The ceremony ended with an invitation to leave flowers near the pond, in the middle of the Garden of Light.
Some sources suggest that this 20th anniversary will be the last to be celebrated formally, so that the families of the victims will be able to commemorate their beloved in private.