Police defend absence at Omagh memorial

Memorial to mark 19-years since the bombing of Omagh that claimed 29 lives.

THE PSNI has defended the absence of officers at the annual Omagh bomb memorial service, saying it does "not believe" it received an invitation to the commemorative event.

Several hundred people, including family members who lost loved ones, attended the service at the memorial garden dedicated to the 29 victims and unborn twins who died in the August 1998 Real IRA attack.

Representatives of the Northern Ireland Office and Irish Government as well as Shadow Secretary of State Stephen Pound were also present.

However, for the first time in the 19-years since the atrocity there were no senior members of the PSNI present.

Last week the families issued a civil writ against the PSNI and the Chief Constable in relation to failings in the original police investigation.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden died in the bombing, said he hoped this "had no bearing" on the decision not to attend.

"We prayed for the police in the service, we prayed for the officers who attended that day.

"It was disappointing not to have them here," he added.

A former RUC officer who attended the service told the News Letter it was "very, very sad that the PSNI couldn't find 45 minutes out of their day to send a senior representative".

Gerry Carolan added: "A fortnight earlier you had the PSNI parading in Belfast at Pride yet they failed to send a representative to the memorial for the single biggest atrocity in Northern Ireland."

However the PSNI has denied shunning the service, but said it did not receive an invitation.

Chief Inspector Graham Dodds said: "PSNI officers have previously attended the annual memorial service to show our support for the victims of this terrible tragedy, at the invitation of the families concerned.

"At this stage we do not believe that local police received an invitation to this year's service, however, we will seek to clarify the matter."

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