YESTERDAY’S murderous attack in Omagh, which left young Ronan Kerr dead, brought back horrible memories of the 1998 atrocity in the town which left 29 people dead – three of them from Buncrana.
The Donegal boys who died were Oran Doherty, James Barker and Sean McLaughlin.
Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in that attack, said he felt his stomach turn when he heard that dissident child killers were back at their murderous deeds in the Tyrone town yesterday.
He has campaigned tirelessly against the dissidents.
Said Michael: “After what happened here in August 1998, it is simply unbelievable that these people would strike here again.
“I am extremely angry at that, and extremely sad at the loss of this young man’s life. The people who did this care nothing about the lives of people or their feelings.”
But Michael – whose brother was also murdered by the Provisional IRA – turned his attack on the governments.
Our own Government has refused to release what it knows of the 1998 attack for ‘security reasons.’
Mr Gallagher challenged the nationalist community on both sides of the Border to take more steps to ostracise and isolate the anti-ceasefire organisations.
“After all that we’ve done, the governments are still not taking these people seriously. How many other people are going to be murdered before the Catholic community, from which these people come, and the supposedly best intelligence agency in the world [MI5], take these people on and resolve this?”
Ronan Kerr was a pupil at Omagh Christian Brothers school. The Catholic police officer had only recently graduated from the PSNI’s training college when he became a target for the terror group.
Omagh is once again in mourning. This time people from this county were lucky. The last time we were all deeply affected.
Those who died in 1998 were:
|Rocio Abad Ramos (age 23)||Mary Grimes (66)||Avril Monaghan (30)|
|James Barker (12)||Olive Hawkes (60)||Maura Monaghan (1)|
|Fernando Blasco(12)||Julia Hughes (21)||Alan Radford (16)|
|Geraldine Breslin (43)||Brenda Logue (17)||Elizabeth Rush (57)|
|Deborah-Anne Cartwright (20)||Jolene Marlow (17)||Veda Short (56)|
|Gareth Conway (18)||Ann McCombe (48)||Philomena Skelton (49)|
|Breda Devine (1)||Brian McCrory (54)||Bryan White (27)|
|Oran Doherty (8)||Samantha McFarland (17)||Frederick White (60)|
|Adian Gallagher (21)||Sean McGrath (61)||Lorraine Wilson (15)|
|Esther Gibson (36)||Sean McLaughlin (12)|
|Rocio Abad Ramos, a 23 year old Spanish woman, loved Ireland. She had almost finished a degree in biology in Spain, but had also been involved in exchange-trips between Spanish and Irish school children. On this, her fifth trip to Ireland, she was taking care of the Donegal children on their trip to the Ulster American Folk Park, near Omagh. In a last minute change of plan, the organisers chose to end the afternoon with a shopping trip to Omagh. Despite rushing the children to safety during the bomb alert, she was killed instantly when the bomb exploded beside her. Four of her charges (James Barker, Fernando Blasco Baselga, Oran Doherty and Sean McLaughlin) died with her. Her body was brought back to Spain with a full military escort.|
|James Barker was a 12 year old schoolboy from Ballintrae, Buncrana in county Donegal. His mother, who is Irish, is married to an English man. They moved to Buncrana in 1997 in order to get a better quality of life. The family has since moved back to England. James was a goalkeeper for his local school and was due to go to secondary school in September. James suffered severe head injuries in the bomb, and died shortly afterwards in hospital. His family waited 3 hours for confirmation of the news. He was buried in a joint service with his friends, Oran Doherty and Sean McLaughlin, in Buncrana. Thousands of people lined the streets of the town to pay their respects. His mother said “To see him lying there with half of his head gone and those beautiful green eyes looking out at me as if he was waiting for me was devastating. I never realised how green his eyes were. That image will stay with me for the rest of my life”.|
|Fernando Blasco Baselga was a 12 year old schoolboy from Madrid, Spain. He was taking part in an exchange trip with children from Donegal, and had gone on the day-trip to Omagh. Less than half of the children in the bus returned home that day: the rest were either dead or injured. Fernando’s family was no stranger to terrorism: his father had been injured by an ETA bomb in Spain in 1992. Although Fernando was some distance from the bomb, he was killed instantly when struck by a single piece of debris. Fernando’s 15 year old sister, Donna Marie, was also on the trip and has undergone extensive plastic surgery for facial injuries. Apologising to the Spanish people, a Buncrana priest said “I hope you can forgive us, remembering the real Ireland and not the ‘real’ IRA”. Fernando’s family said “We would like the deaths of Fernando and Rocio to be the last ones caused by terrorism and their deaths to shed a ray of hope on the paths of peace”. His body was brought back to Spain under a full military escort.|
|Geraldine Breslin was a 43 year old married mother from Drumanon Close, Omagh. Her only son was 15 years old at the time. She worked as an assistant in Watterson’s clothes shop, but had walked down the street during a tea break. She was killed instantly by the bomb explosion, alongside her friend Ann McCombe. At her funeral, Father John Forbes said “The blackness of evil lay heavy over our town, but in this blackness lights begin to shine. People reached out and helped the injured, gave hope to the dying and held the dead. And this goodness, which was such a challenge to evil, gave us back the gift of hope”. She was described as “A beautiful woman who was the salt of the earth”.|
|Deborah-Anne Cartwright was a 20 year old student who worked in a beauty salon. A former pupil of Omagh High School, she was awaiting her A-level results to see if she had been successful in getting a place in a textile design course at Manchester University. Her results, which arrived on the day of her funeral, confirmed that she had. The daugher of an RUC officer, Deborah-Anne was active in cross-community work, including an exchange trip to Denmark. At her funeral, Rev Ruth Adams described her as being full of life and energy. She was cremated at Roselawn Cemetary, Belfast.|
|Gareth Conway was an 18 year old student from Carrickmore, near Omagh. He had just been accepted for an engineering course at the University of Ulster, and was awaiting his exam results. A gaelic footballer, Gareth had been in town to buy a pair of jeans and some contact lenses. From a family of six children, one of his sisters was working at the hospital, only to discover him listed as missing. He was standing close to the bomb and died almost instantly. At his funeral, which was attended by representatives of Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionist Party, school friends and his GAA team formed a guard of honour. The presiding Bishop said “His future was stolen from him by men and women of violence who claim to plan a future for our country. Their sordid plan is based on fear, intimidation and death. We want no part in that”.|
|Breda Devine was a 20 month old toddler when she was murdered by the bombers. Born three months prematurely, she had clung to life in hospital. She had been brought into town while her mother shopped for a wedding present for her brother. Her mother suffered 60% burns in the bomb and was unconscious for six weeks, unaware that her daughter had been killed. Breda’s father tells how he identified her tiny body: “I was told a baby had been found and a priest led me to the ward. When I reached the ward they told me that this baby was dead and asked if I would look to see if it was ours. It was.” At her funeral at Aughnabrack, he carried Breda’s small, white coffin beneath a guard of honour provided by the GAA team he managed. The former Bishop of Derry, Edward Daly, said “As a people we cherish our children, the sight of the tiny white coffin evokes feelings of sadness, anger, puzzlement and dismay.””We’ve had enough of conflict, enough of conflict, far too much.” Breda leaves three siblings, aged six, three and two.|
|Oran Doherty was an 8 year old schoolboy from Knockalla Drive, Buncrana, county Donegal. He was killed alongside his friends, Sean McLaughlin and James Barker, when the bomb exploded. His father formally identified his body at 7am the next morning. His sister said afterwards “He was so excited about the trip.””He was just an angel and we will all miss him so much. We will never, ever get over this”. Oran was a keen Celtic fan and was buried in the club jersey. Representatives from the Celtic football club attended the funeral. After visiting his family with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, SDLP leader John Hume said “When you look at the faces of those young children and see the terrible suffering inflicted on their families, you wonder what sort of people are these who can leave those children in the coffin the way they are.”|
|Adian Gallagher was a 21 year old self-employed mechanic, the only son of his parents, who lived at Circular Road, Omagh. Described as being “crazy about cars”, he had spent two years building up his own repair firm. He had taken the afternoon off to go into Omagh for a pair of jeans, and was killed close to the site of the explosion. His friend, who was with him, was badly burned. His death was not confirmed until 3:30am the next day. His father said “The list of names in the leisure centre was getting shorter and shorter and you just started to have that inevitability that set in, that you didn’t want to believe, that the worst was coming.””I didn’t do the formal identification, it was my brother and he told me he wasn’t badly marked and I’m grateful for that small mercy”. It was not the first time terrorism had visited the family – Adian’s uncle had been murdered by the IRA in 1984.|
|Esther Gibson was a 36 year old Sunday-school teacher, who worked in Desmond’s clothes factory in the town. She died from head injuries. Her fiancé looked for her, along with her father and brother, and they eventually identified her body at 2:30am the next morning. Her car was found in a nearby carpark, full of bags of her shopping. Her fiancé said “When they killed her, I died with her. I wish I had been with her. I wish I was with her this minute”. They had got engaged three months previously, and their wedding was scheduled for June 1999. “We had our rings picked and we were waiting for planning permission to build a house. Esther was kind and loving, the most generous person I have ever known. She loved children. She couldn’t wait to start a family. We wanted a boy and a girl.” Esther was the niece of DUP assembly member, Oliver Gibson. The tiny Free Persbyterian Church at Sixmilecross was packed for her funeral. Her coffin was graced with her engagement photograph – taken only a couple of hours before she was killed.|
|Mary Grimes, aged 66, went shopping in Omagh with her daughter Avril Monaghan and granddaughter Maura Monaghan. All three were killed together as they left SD Kells clothes shop. Mary, who came originally from Kanturk, county Cork, and now lived on a farm near Beragh (a village near Omagh) died on her birthday. Her husband was waiting at home with a bunch of flowers that he was going to surprise her with. Speaking at the funeral about the loss of three generations of one family, Archbishop Sean Brady said “If this triple tragedy was due to natural causes or an accident, it would be already immensely sad. But this is the work of fellow human beings and our hearts are filled, not only with sadness, but with anger and outrage. That it was carried out under the pretext of patriotism, adds shame to that outrage and sorrow”. On the altar was the last loaf of bread that Mary had baked before she was killed.|
|Olive Hawkes, aged 60, lived in an agricultural community a few miles outside Omagh and was highly respected by both sides of her community. She was due to celebrate her Ruby wedding anniversary a few days after the bomb. She was killed by the explosion while on a routine shopping trip to Omagh. Her body was identified using finger prints gathered from her alarm-clock. Her funeral was held at Mayne Methodist Church, where she had been treasurer for 20 years. Rev Kenneth Robinson said “She was the sort of person who would do anything for anyone, a person who would drop anything and run to help anyone who needed it”. The President of the Methodist Church, Rev David Kerr said “As Christians we will be praying for those who have been injured, those who remain critically ill and those who have lost loved ones, because grief knows no denominational boundaries”.|
|Julia Hughes was a 21-year-old accountancy student from Beltany Road, Omagh. She was home from Dundee University, where she was soon to return to complete her final year. She had got a summer job in Image Xpress, a photographic shop. Due to the inaccurate warnings, she was evacuated from her shop only to meet the full force of the bomb explosion. She died from shrapnel injuries. Her parents, who only gradually realised she had been involved, identified her body at 2am on the next morning. Julia, who leaves a twin and two other siblings, was cremated at Roselawn Cemetary, Belfast after a service in Omagh Methodist Church. The President of the Methodist Church, Rev David Kerr, said her father had asked him why his daughter had been murdered. He had replied “To that question there is absolutely no answer on this side of eternity”.|
|Brenda Logue, aged 17, walked out of the shop she was in to find out why people were running, and was killed instantly when the bomb exploded in front of her. Her family inside escaped with cuts. Brenda was a sixth-year pupil at St Theresa’s high school in Carrickmore, and played for the school Gaelic football team. Her GCSE exam results arrived a few days after her death. Her father said “I knew all along. I knew because the front of the shop was blown out and nobody could survive that”. The family had to be helped out of the mortuary after identifying her body. Her father said “I loved her to bits. She was a wonderful wee girl, so full of life”. Brenda’s three brothers and father carried her coffin during the funeral.|
|Jolene Marlow, a 17 year old student from Newtownsaville, near Omagh, was in Omagh with her sister and grandmother. They had been eating lunch in a cafe, when it was evacuated due to the bomb alert. All three walked towards the bomb. Her death was confirmed at 4am the next morning. Jolene’s A-Level exam results arrived on the day of her funeral. She had been hoping to study physiotherapy at the University of Ulster. She was a keen footballer, and her team had won the Tyrone championship 10 days before she died. At her funeral, the Bishop of Clogher said “[We] pray this morning that we continue to put our trust in dialogue and agreement as the only way forward for the community. We all appreciate the difficulties, especially for those who have suffered more than others, but we dare not turn back, if only because there is no other way. There is certainly no other Christian way.”|
|Ann McCombe, aged 48, lived in Summerhill Park, Omagh with her husband. She had two children, aged 18 and 22. She was working in Watterson’s clothes shop and had walked down the town with her friend, Geraldine Breslin, during a tea break. Both died instantly when the bomb exploded beside them. Ann’s husband was on a coach trip in Scotland at the time and was finally reached at 8:30pm via the driver’s mobile phone. He said “She was not just my wife, she was my best friend as well. She was such a loving, caring person. She had not a bad word to say about anybody.” At the funeral in Mountjoy Presbyterian Church, where she had been a choir member, the minister said “Together we will build and rebuild broken lives, broken homes and a broken community”.|
|Brian McCrory was a 54 year old from Ballinamullan Road, Omagh. He had gone to Omagh to buy paint, and was talking with a friend near the car that contained the bomb when it exploded. His body was identified using fingerprints gathered from a photograph at his house. One of Brian’s sons helped in the hospital, unaware that his father was among the dead. At the funeral, Father Eugene Hassen said “The message of the 15th of August bomb in Omagh is that never again must it happen in our land. If there is anyone in our midst who still harbours violent deeds in their hearts, they must listen and hear this message – never again.” Brian McCrory leaves a wife, daughter and two sons.|
|Samantha McFarland was a 17 year old student from Hospital Road, Omagh. She was working with her friend, Lorraine Wilson, in the Oxfam charity shop when it was evacuated. Samantha did not want to go too far, because she had the shop keys, and the two girls walked towards the bomb. They were killed when it exploded. Her family had the death confirmed at 5:30am the next morning. Her mother became an Oxfam volunteer as a tribute. The Oxfam shop suffered particularly – another worker lost her brother, Fred White and nephew, Bryan White. A former pupil of Omagh High School, Samantha was described as “a wonderful young girl”. At her funeral at Holy Trinity church, Lislimnaghan, Rev Derek Quinn said “There will be people who have been terribly maimed returning to the community, children who have lost limbs who will be around for the next 60 years. They will be the visible signs for generations to come. And there are people who have seen things no one should see, including children who have seen their friends blown to pieces.” Samantha was cremated at Roselawn Cemetary, Belfast.|
|Sean McGrath was critically injured in the bomb and was being treated for shrapnel wounds in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital. In the early hours of September 5th he died surrounded by his family, finalising the death toll at 29. A well-known local businessman, Mr McGrath was fatally injured in the same street in which he had been born 61 years earlier. He had come into town to get a haircut, but had found the barber’s shop closed. Local councillor and friend, Paddy McGowan, said “Sean McGrath was one of the loveliest men ever to walk the streets of Omagh. I can pay no finer tribute that that”. At his funeral in St Mary’s, Killyclogher, the Bishop said “Enough has been said about those who carried out the evil act that caused Sean’s death. They know how they stand in the eyes of the people of Omagh and the entire country, and should forever hold their heads in shame. Today we would rather talk not about agents of death but rather about agents of life, those doctors and nurses who tried so valiantly to restore Sean to life and will be disappointed that it was in vain.” His coffin was brought to the cemetary by horse-drawn carriage.|
|Sean McLaughlin was a 12 year old schoolboy from Knockalla Drive, Buncrana. He had been in Omagh with some Spanish schoolchildren on an exchange trip. Sean was killed alongside his friends, Oran Doherty and James Barker. Oran Doherty lived a few houses away from the McLaughlins. Sean was an avid footballer, supporting Manchester United and was also an altar boy. A local priest said “He was a lovely wee fellow. The one memory I have of him is of his happy, smiling face”. Irish President, Mary McAleese attended Sean’s funeral.|
|Avril Monaghan, aged 30, was heavily pregnant with twins when she was killed, along with her baby daughter, Maura Monaghan, and mother Mary Grimes. They had been in SD Kells clothes shop, which bore the brunt of the explosion. They had been in town celebrating Mary’s birthday. Avril came from Springtown Road, Aughadarra, about 15 miles from Omagh. Avril’s uncle said “They were at mass the morning she was killed. Avril was a woman who expressed her faith; and faith, belief in the resurrection, is the only way a family can come to terms with something like this.” Avril’s coffin was carried to the graveside by some of her ten brothers. Her death leaves her three surviving children, all of whom were under seven years old, without a mother.|
|Maura Monaghan, aged 18 months, was the youngest victim of the Omagh bomb. Known as ‘Mossie’ by her family, she was buried in a tiny white coffin, along side her mother, Avril Monaghan, and her two unborn twin siblings. Maura’s grandmother, Mary Grimes, was also killed. The graveyard of St MacCartan’s Church, Augher, was described as “one of the most beautiful in all of Ireland”. Maura’s family described her as “just a beautiful, curly-haired angel who was loved by everyone”. Father James Grimes said “That terrible explosion in Omagh on Saturday has shattered not only our families, but many other families throughout the country. The reason for it we cannot explain. We must try and pray for forgiveness for those who carried out that most awful act of murder in Omagh.” He asked the congregation to pray for Avril “as she takes her little angel with her to heaven”.|
|Alan Radford, a 16 year old schoolboy from Castleview Park, in Omagh. Alan was a Mormon, and had been in town shopping, when he suffered fatal shrapnel wounds. His mother, who was nearby, was injured. Alan’s father, who was in England at the time, had survived a murder attempt by the IRA some years previously. Alan’s family formally identified his body at 10am the next morning. His brother described him: “He was a quiet lad. He was mad about sports gear, and he was killed when he went to look at trainers in a sports shop.” Alan was due to start training as a chef the next month, and his GCSE exam results arrived three days after his death. His sister received his GCSE certificate in his place at Omagh High School. He was buried, after a private service, at Greenhill Cemetary, on the edge of Omagh.|
|Elizabeth Rush, aged 57, died serving customers in her shop on Market Street, which was sited just opposite the centre of the explosion. The ground floor was a pine shop, called the Pine Emporium, while she ran a small cafe on the first floor. Living on Michael Street, Omagh, she had married her husband when they were just 18. Mr Rush, who identified Libbi’s body at 2:30pm on the day after the bomb, said “They have not only destroyed my wife, they have destroyed my life. If they get a life sentence, I have started mine now and I won’t get any parole.” At the funeral in St Mary’s Church, Drumragh, her coffin was decoarated with a red rose from her husband. The Bishop described Libbi as “a caring person, always friendly, a devoted wife and mother. …She was killed by the evil actions of some people who knew nothing about Libbi. They try to justify it by appealing to some mythical cause. No cause is worth that sort of mayhem.” She was buried beside the chapel.|
|Veda Short, aged 56, had worked in Watterson’s clothes shop for 20 years. She was on her break at the time of the explosion, and had gone for a walk down to Market Street, where she was killed. Earlier that day, Veda had witnessed the birth of her grandchild. She lived on Moylagh Road, Gorticlare, at Beragh, and her funeral was held in Seskinore Presbyterian Church. The minister described her: “Veda loved her family and took great delight in her children and grandchildren. That she was able to see her grandson, Lee, on the day he was born, just a few short hours before the dreadful event, is a memory I know will become more and more special to you all.” He also said “There are no words to describe the heartache, the pain, and the utter and complete grief that this community, this congregation and this family are experiencing. What makes it worse is that we are not alone. Every part of Omagh grieves today as it did yesterday, as it will tomorrow and the day after that.” She was buried beside the church.|
|Philomena Skelton, aged 39, was in SD Kells buying school uniforms with her three daughters. The shop took the brunt of the explosion, partially collapsing on the shoppers inside. Her husband Kevin was in the shop next door and escaped with cuts. He said “We were only three feet apart, with just a shop dividing us, yet she was killed and I came out of it with hardly a scratch”. Her son was on a fishing trip. Kevin spent an hour and a half digging at the rubble, convinced his three daughters were buried. They survived with injuries. Philomena, who was to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary at the end of the month, was identified by her husband on Sunday morning. At the funeral, the Bishop said “What happened in Market Street was something that was palpable evil – to plant a bomb in a crowded street was a sinful act that nothing can condone, excuse or allow to be talked away. But if the sense of evil was palpable, even more palpable was the outpouring of love and caring. What we will remember most is the way in which people from all walks of life responded to this human tragedy.” Philomena was buried in a graveyard near her house.|
|Bryan White, a 27 year old horticulturist from Knockgreenan Avenue, Omagh, died alongside his father, Fred White. He had returned from University in England and was due to start a job with the council two days later. Bryan was described as “a conscientious and committed member of the congregation.” Bryan was an active member of the community, involved in the Boys Brigade, the Orange Order and the Omagh Unionist Association. After the joint funeral service, at Ballynahatty and Creevan Presbyterian Church in Omagh, Bryan was buried alongside his father.|
|Frederick White, aged 60, was enjoying his retirement. He had just returned to his home at Knockgreenan Avenue, Omagh, from an overseas holiday and was with his son, Bryan White, in the shop next to SD Kells, when the bomb killed them both. From an agricultural background, Fred was a prize-winning daffodil grower, an interest which his son inherited. Fred was also an active member of the community, involved with both the Orange Order and the Omagh Unionist Association. He was buried alongside his son in Old Drumragh Graveyard after a joint service at Ballynahatty and Creevan Presbyterian Church in Omagh. Fred had been the church’s treasurer for 22 years. The minister, Rev Arthur O’Neill, said “In the past days we have witnessed the anguish, bitter grief and hot tears of this family. We have seen them waiting, waiting and waiting through the long watches of the night. Hoping, hoping and hoping against hope that with the coming of the dawn word would come that Fred and Bryan were safe. It was not to be.”|
|Lorraine Wilson was a 15 year old schoolgirl from Camowen Bungalows, Omagh. She had been working as a volunteer in Oxfam when she was evacuated following the inaccurate warnings. She and her friend, Samantha McFarland, walked towards Market Street and were killed together when the bomb exploded. Her body was identified late on Sunday morning, almost 24 hours after her death. Her father said “Her body was left as it was found so it was very tough having to identify her but the whole family was there. She had a face full of shrapnel.” He described her as “an angel”. Lorraine’s mother became an Oxfam volunteer as a tribute. Pupils from Omagh High School, which she attended, formed a guard of honour as she was carried into Cappagh Parish Church by her brothers and father. A pupil sang “Candle in the Wind” during the service. The Bishop said “The dark cloud of evil is being penetrated by numerous acts of love and goodness which are happening all around us.” She was buried in the adjoining graveyard.|