Omagh - a day we'll never
Ten years ago today, at
3.10pm, a bomb exploded in Omagh's Market Street killing
29 people including a woman pregnant with twins. It was
the single worst atrocity in the history of the Troubles
and its devastation reached not only across the border
to Buncrana, Co Donegal but as far away as Spain. Nearly
everyone in Ireland remembers where they were the day
news filtered through of the immensity of the
tragedy...a tragedy few will ever forget.
Below Bishop of Derry Dr. Seamus Hegarty, the Mayor of
Buncrana Cllr Dermot McLaughlin and Buncrana youth
leader, P.J. Hallinan recall their memories of that
horrific day on August 15, 1998. (Compiled for a special
commemoration supplement in this week's Inishowen
Bishop of Derry, Dr. Seamus
THE Bishop of Derry Dr. Seamus Hegarty has said he hopes
the evil of violence will never again find fertile soil
Speaking to the Inishowen Independent in advance of the
tenth anniversary of the Omagh bomb, Dr. Hegarty said he
recalls very clearly where he was when he heard the news
of the bombing in Omagh.
“I was in Dungloe and having returned to the pier on
Meela Lake, at the end of the first day of a two day
fishing competition. I heard a man on the pier speaking
about the Omagh bombing. There and then I decided that
Omagh was the place for me to be and I arrived there at
9.00pm. I went directly to the hospital. There, victims
of the bombing were extremely ill and fighting for their
lives. Now, as then, I am full of admiration for the
professionalism and the dexterity of the surgeons and
the entire hospital staff.”
Bishop Hegarty said that later that night, he went to
the Leisure Centre where hundreds of people were waiting
anxiously for news of missing relatives – were they
alive or dead.
“I recall Dr. Kerr, Methodist President at that time,
leading a thousand or so people in the Leisure Centre in
prayer at midnight.”
The funerals of the victims engaged Bishop Hegarty,
Bishop Lagan and Bishop Daly during the following days.
“I shall never forget the events of those days. It is
important that it is recalled that thirty-one, not
twenty nine, persons died in the tragedy,” he added.
“In a few short days we will recall the 10th anniversary
of that day of destruction. It is a time to reflect on
the lives of those who were killed and ponder on the
fact that the unborn would now be approaching their
teenage years with all the hopes and dreams that go with
youth. It is also a time to pray for those who are still
coming to terms with the loss experienced.”
Dr. Hegarty also insisted that the Omagh bomb is one
example of how people blinded by evil disrupted God’s
“My prayer this 15th August as I recall that day of
carnage on the streets of Omagh is that the evil of
violence will never again find fertile soil to take root
and that – Catholic, Protestant, Unionist, Nationalist
and indeed all people will have the courage to share
this island with each other in harmony and peace,” he
Dermot McLaughlin, Mayor of Buncrana:
“MY strongest memory of it was the night the funeral
cortege of the wains came home to Buncrana. The people
of the town lined both sides of the Main Street in a
candlelit vigil. It was a very powerful illustration of
the togetherness of the Buncrana community. The
symbolism of the lit candles was very striking too,
because it was a very, very dark time for everyone in
“To be honest, the bombing still affects the town to
this day. It’s always there in the background, and if
you scratch the surface you can still see how deeply it
affects people here.
“It was a beautiful August day when the news came
through of a bombing in Omagh. And shortly afterwards
the rumours started to sweep the town that children from
here were caught up in it. Sadly, as the day went on the
rumours turned to fact and the news got worse and worse.
It was an awful tragedy.”
“As Mayor of Buncrana, I will be attending the official
memorial service in Omagh on Friday afternoon. I’m sorry
to hear that there’s some dissension between the
families and the Omagh District Council and I hope those
can be resolved in time.
In the evening time, I hope to attend the memorial Mass
at Knockalla Drive and pay my respects there.”
“The Town Council has been doing some work in the
Knockalla Drive area recently, tidying it up and so on.
The town gardener will also be planting new flowers
there early this week.”
“I recently met with the families to discuss the
erection of a memorial, stained-glass window at Scoil
Íosagáin. It will be one of four windows commissioned to
remember those who died in the bombing of Omagh and the
Claudy bombing in 1972. The other windows will be
installed in Omagh, Derry and Madrid.
PJ Hallinan. Buncrana Youth Club:
THE local boys were all members of the Youth Club and
they went with their Spanish friends on that trip to the
Folk Park and Omagh. A small memorial plaque to the boys
stands in the club where later this week members will
gather and offer a minutes silence in memory of Sean,
Oran and James, Fernando and Rocio, and all those who
were murdered in Omagh.
“I can still see wee Sean McLaughlin playing football in
the hall here at the youth club. He was no size – the
ball was nearly up to his knees – but by God was he
Wee Oran Doherty was a handy footballer too. He was a
real character and had a real, roguish smile.
Young James Barker was quieter than the other two boys,
but he was the most affable child I ever met. He had a
great presence about him. He wasn’t into the football so
much, but was very interested in an old battered
computer we had.
Oran and Sean lived just below me in Knockalla Drive,
and I’ll never forget the night when their coffins
returned to the town. It was as if the world was
Having lost my own daughter long before her time, I know
a little bit about heartache, but I never want to see
another open air wake for as long as live. To see the
two wee white coffins, the mass of people and the
candles flickering in the breeze is something that will
always stay with me. The solidarity expressed by the
people of the town to the families was magnificent.
The forbearance displayed by the families was
remarkable, I don’t know how they stood up to or dealt
with a tragedy like that.
I’ll be attending the Mass at Knockalla Drive on Friday
night. No matter where I’ve been, I’ve always tried to
get back for that remembrance service that the families
have always held there. It’ll be difficult because my
memories of the time are so vivid. The boys would all
have been grown men by now, but we’ll never get to see
how they would have turned out.
The loss of all those lives in Omagh just demonstrates
the futility of conflict, no matter who’s doing the
killing or who’s being killed. A lot of links between
Buncrana and Omagh have been forged since then through
the various Peace Studies Programme and the Bridge of
Hope and Peace that wee Sean McLaughlin wrote a poem
about is more evident today than it ever was.
For a list of who died in the Omagh bomb,