Northern Ireland news

Taoiseach and secretary of state accused of 'snubbing' Omagh bombing families on 20th anniversary

Michael Gallagher said the taoiseach and secretary of state's decision not to attend the Omagh bomb 20th anniversary commemorations was "extremely disrespectful"

THE father of an Omagh bomb victim has criticised the taoiseach and secretary of state for their failure to attend events to mark the 20th anniversary of the Real IRA atrocity.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aidan was among those killed on August 15 1998, said Leo Varadkar and Karen Bradley's decision not to join relatives at upcoming commemorations in the Co Tyrone town was "extremely disrespectful"

Events marking 20 years since the dissident republican bomb destroyed much of Omagh town centre are due to take place on Sunday and next Wednesday.

Speaking to the Ulster Herald, Mr Gallagher said: "There is no polite way of explaining this decision in our view other than the Omagh families have been snubbed."

He said the victims' families "always seem to be frustrated by either the British or Irish governments and their lack of co-operation".

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"It is extremely disrespectful that they do not see fit to attend."

Among those scheduled to attend the commemorations are PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton and former police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.

Northern Ireland Office Minister of State Shailesh Vara will deputise on Mrs Bradley's behalf, accompanied by a British government official, while Fine Gael minister Heather Humphreys will represent the Dublin government.

Mr Gallagher was critical of the taoiseach, who he said had "clearly found time" to attend other events north of border.

In June, Mr Varadkar travelled visited the Orange Order's Schomberg House headquarters and launched Féile an Phobail in west Belfast.

Mr Gallagher also said it was "extremely disappointing" that the secretary of state had turned down the invitation.

The NIO said Mrs Bradley would be "overseas" when Sunday's commemoration takes place.

"The secretary of state would like to express her deepest sympathy to all those affected by the Omagh bombing," a statement from the NIO said.

"She hopes that this weekend's commemoration will provide comfort during this difficult time."

The taoiseach's office made no comment.

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