Omagh bombing

Omagh bombing victim's father Michael Gallagher urges Stormont agreement at 20th anniversary service

A floral tribute and card to Oran Doherty at an inter-denominational service at the Memorial Gardens in Omagh to remember the Omagh bombing 20 years on. Picture by Liam McBurney, Press Association
Cate McCurry

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 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, murdered when a Real IRA car bomb ripped through Omagh on August 15, 1998.

In his speech at the inter-denominational remembrance service, Mr Gallagher also paid tribute to all the victims of the Troubles, including the La Mon Hotel bombing.

Relatives of the dead gathered in the memorial garden where they sat opposite the reflecting pool in the Co Tyrone town on Sunday.

Friends and families of the victims also laid flowers and wreaths.

Mr Gallagher, who is the spokesman for Omagh Support and Self Help Group, said in his closing speech that as a small province, 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 have showed "courage and leadership".

"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 said.

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

The Omagh Community Youth Choir performed a piece of music composed by its musical director Daryl Simpson.

The choir includes Cara McGillion (17), the daughter of Donna Marie and Garry, who were seriously injured in the attack.

Mrs McGillion (42), suffered 65 per cent third degree burns and was left in a coma for almost seven weeks after the blast, described the memorial as an "emotional day".

"It's a special day and a way to help us move forward but ultimately this is about the 31 who walked with us in the town that day and aren't with us today."

A song was sung for Our Special Absent Friends by Leslie Matthews, who also paid tribute to Mr Gallagher, saying he was the reason "we are all here today".

He added: "I hope and pray that justice will be done in the future."

Former ombudsman Baroness Nuala O'Loan, the Republic's health minister Simon Harris and Chief Constable George Hamilton were also among those attending the event.

Speaking at the event Mr Hamilton vowed to do all he can to bring those responsible for the Omagh bombing to justice.

"We will do all that we can within the law to gather evidence that brings those responsible for this horrible atrocity to justice," he said.

"If there are evidential opportunities, we will grasp them with both hands.

"If there's new science or technology that allow us to exploit and harvest more evidence from the exhibits that we already collected, of course we will do all of that. We will not be found wanting."

Sarri Singer, who founded a supporters' group for survivors of terrorism after she was severely injured in a bomb in Jerusalem in 2003, said that victims share an experience which "bonds them for life".

She set up Strength to Strength which provides terror victims and families with psychological and emotional support.

"I've come to represent victims of terrorism from around the world," she said.

"While I know this week is not an easy week for victims and families, we are all connected and there for each other.

"To the families who have been impacted by the Omagh bomb, you are never alone and your families will never be forgotten."

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

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