Northern Ireland news

Mother of Omagh bombing victim Aiden Gallagher breaks silence in emotional letter backing Nuala O'Loan

Patsy Gallagher, mother of Aidan Gallagher who lost his life in the Omagh Bomb and wife of Michael Gallagher receiving words of encouragement from some of her grandchildren..
Seanín Graham

THE mother of Omagh bombing victim Aiden Gallagher has spoken publicly for the first time since his death 20 years ago to praise a former Police Ombudsman’s comment that the atrocity could have been prevented.

Patsy Gallagher said she decided to break her silence to support calls by Baroness Nuala O’Loan for a public inquiry and express her own concerns as to whether the Real IRA attack could have been stopped.

In an emotional letter to The Irish News, Mrs Gallagher (67) said she always visited her 21-year-old son’s grave at 3pm on August 15, the anniversary, but this year she got up and went straight to the grave “to tell Aiden” the news.

Mrs Gallagher, whose husband Michael is a prominent spokesman for the Omagh Support and Self Help Group, spoke about the sudden death of her father, less than a fortnight after her son’s murder.

John O’Connor (81) was very close to Aiden. They shared the same birthday.

Pacemaker Press Belfast 10-05-2012: Family members From L-R Stanley McComb, Cathy Wilson, Patsy Gallagher,Michael Gallagher of those killed in the Omagh bombing at Stormont in Belfast as they hold a meeting with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson yesterday Picture By: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker.

“I have never spoken out before as my husband usually does that but I think after what Nuala has said it is now time for me to speak up,” Mrs Gallagher wrote.

“I lost the most important person in my life, Aiden, on the 15th August 1998, and my father 10 days later with a broken heart.”

Baroness Nuala O'Loan said she believes the Real IRA attack could have been prevented

In a radio interview on the morning of the 20th anniversary, Baroness O’Loan said she “firmly believed” that the murders could have been prevented, had sufficient action been taken on intelligence.

While Chief Constable George Hamilton rejected her claim and some victims’ families criticised the timing of her remarks, Mrs Gallagher called them the “best thing” that has happened since the “worst day of her life”.

“For someone like Nuala to say this means the last 20 years of our lives haven’t been wasted and it will be difficult for the secretary of state to refuse us a public inquiry,” she wrote.

“We so desperately need a public inquiry and let the courts decide if the bomb could have been stopped.”

Mrs Gallagher, who has two other children, Cat (40) and Sharon (48), said she “didn’t want to get out of bed” on the morning of the 20th anniversary of the attack, which claimed the lives of 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins.

“My husband came into the room and told me that Nuala had said it on the radio. I was in bed not wanting to get up but news like that I just couldn’t wait to get out off bed and out to the grave to tell Aiden,” she said.

“We always go to the grave at 3pm every 15th August but I just couldn’t wait until then.”

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