Wreathes not enough for Omagh victims
Wreathes not enough for Omagh victims

A cross-border public inquiry is the only proper tribute to relatives bereaved by the Omagh bomb blast, a memorial service heard on Sunday.

The system “has failed everyone” and its leaders should “hang their heads in shame” because of the lack of progress, bereaved father Michael Gallagher told mourners in the County Tyrone town.

They had gathered to mark ten years since the bomb blast, which killed 29 people, and two unborn twins, after bomb warnings failed to clear the centre of the predominately nationalist town.

Following the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, bomb attacks by the breakaway ‘Real IRA’ had been mainly directed against the commercial centres of northern market towns.

It has emerged in recent years that informers within the republican group had forewarned state forces in both jurisdictions regarding the construction and planning of the Omagh bomb.

There have also been a string of failures in the forensics handling of the investigation. Nobody has been convicted of causing the deaths, and the PSNI police has declared that convictions are unlikely.

It has since been suggested that civilian casualties in Omagh could have been sacrificed as a means of turning public opinion against republicanism, similar to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974.

Mr Gallagher, whose son Aidan, 21, died, said: “The only proper tribute to Omagh’s dead, ten years on, must be that full cross-border public inquiry.

“We call on public figures to back our call, otherwise the system continues to fail everyone and should hold its head in shame.

“They will be judged not on their token gestures but on what they have or have not done to actually bring justice to Omagh, not wreathes.”

Sinn Féin this week supported calls for a cross-border independent inquiry into the Omagh bomb.

Former chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said there were serious concerns about the “debacle after debacle” which plagued police investigations into the tragedy.

The Deputy First Minister said he had listened to what the people in Omagh have said and the criticisms that have been made.

“The calls that are made from the families here for the establishment of an independent tribunal, they obviously have lost all faith in the police investigation and we have seen debacle after debacle,” he said.

“I think what we need to do is support the families in the demands that they are now making.”

Mr McGuinness was also critical of the Real IRA, who he said had sought to defeat his party’s peace project.

“This was a very clear attempt by whoever was behind the bomb to destroy the peace process, destroy Sinn Féin’s peace strategy. Ten years on they have failed miserably.”

But the bereaved were angered when 26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he did not want to prejudice either the families’ civil action against the men they believe were responsible, or potential criminal proceedings in the 26 Counties.

Mr Gallagher said the Taoiseach’s comments “were only an excuse” not to hold a judicial inquiry. He said: “What we need is more politicians, particularly at that level, coming on board and supporting the families.” He called on the British and Irish governments to do the same.

“When I met Tony Blair two years ago he said, ‘let’s wait and see what comes out of the Hoey trial’. We did wait and we’ve seen what came out of it. Let the governments at least give us a commitment that we can work towards that public inquiry,” he said.

British officials have yet to comment on the families’ appeal for an inquiry.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News