Video: Michael Gallagher says Omagh bombing has been a '20 year nightmare'
THE father of one of the Omagh bombing victims has said the last 20 years have been "an absolute nightmare".
Michael Gallagher's son Aidan was one of 29 people, including a mother pregnant with twins, who lost their lives in the Real IRA atrocity on August 15 1998.
Mr Gallagher has spent the last two decades fighting to bring those responsible to justice.
"The memory that I will always have from that week 20 years ago was, on that day, Aiden came into the kitchen and he said he was going down town to buy a pair of jeans and he was going to pick up his friend Michael Barrett," he said.
"I'll never forget when he walked down the hall and looked back for the last time and said 'I won't be long' and that was the last time that we saw Aiden. He went into town and died with 30 other people and that became an absolute nightmare that has lasted all these years."
Seamus Daly, a bricklayer from Jonesborough, Co Armagh, had been charged over the bombing.
However, the prosecution case against him collapsed in March 2016.
In 2009, Daly was one of four men successfully sued for bombing the Co Tyrone market town. He was found liable for the attack in a landmark civil case taken by some of the bereaved families.
Daly and three others were ordered to pay £1.6 million in damages to the bereaved relatives.
In 2007, south Armagh electrician Sean Hoey, who was then 38 and from Jonesborough, was found not guilty of the 29 murders after a marathon trial at Belfast Crown Court.
Mr Gallagher said he had experienced "many highs and lows" over the last 20 years.
"The bomb happened on the Saturday and on the Sunday I could remember sitting in our living room saying 'well the people responsible for this crime will definitely be caught' because it was such a wicked and evil act and people right across Britain and Ireland just were shocked to the core," he said.
"Here we had the worst atrocity in peacetime, we had the worst atrocity of the Troubles and it happened in peacetime and it happened in Omagh, a town that was never a trouble hot-spot. There didn't seem any reason whatsoever for it happening."
Mr Gallagher said although the successful civil action was a "huge achievement", the Omagh Support and Self Help group, which has been campaigning for justice, feels there is "no point" in pursuing any further legal action.
"It's been very, very difficult over those 20 years," he said.
He added: "What we need is a public inquiry. We need, not just the families, but the whole people of Britain and Ireland to know the truth. Omagh was a scandal and it certainly was a preventable atrocity."
Mr Gallagher said he was unhappy at the British government's proposals on how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.
"The legacy institutions are only going to be up and running for five years and there's in excess of 2,000 cases to look at," he said.
"We think that's extremely optimistic that they will complete that in that period."
- Omagh memories of carnage, pain and bloodied footprints
He said he feared victims' families will "be dead" before the Omagh bombing is properly investigated.
"The date of the Troubles was traditionally 1968-69 to April 11 1998 when the Good Friday Agreement was signed. But the former PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde has recommended that that date be extended to 2004," he said.
"Under the new legacy proposals there's going to be four institutions set up and one of them is the HIU, the Historical Investigations Unit. That means that if the date moved to 2004, and Omagh was included in that, we would then be under the remit of the HIU.
"It means that we would be at the end of a 30-year cycle and we'd probably be dead before there is any investigation into Omagh. We believe that a public inquiry is the best way forward and we will challenge the government if they insist in trying to include Omagh in that period because we see no reason for doing it.
"We have been campaigning for almost 20 years for a public inquiry and we've started a judicial review and we are hoping to go to court early next year. For us that's the way forward."