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Omagh - a day we'll never forget 15.08.08

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 Independent newspaper).
Bishop of Derry, Dr. Seamus Hegarty:
THE Bishop of Derry Dr. Seamus Hegarty has said he hopes the evil of violence will never again find fertile soil in Ireland.
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 scene of devastation in Omagh's Market Street after the 1998 blast.
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 Gods plan.
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 concluded.

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 Buncrana.
To be honest, the bombing still affects the town to this day. Its 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. Im sorry to hear that theres 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 osagin. 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 skilful.
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 wasnt 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 Ill never forget the night when their coffins returned to the town. It was as if the world was collapsing.
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 dont know how they stood up to or dealt with a tragedy like that.
Ill be attending the Mass at Knockalla Drive on Friday night. No matter where Ive been, Ive always tried to get back for that remembrance service that the families have always held there. Itll be difficult because my memories of the time are so vivid. The boys would all have been grown men by now, but well 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 whos doing the killing or whos 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, click here
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