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Annual memorial remembers Omagh bomb victims 17 years on

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 15/08/2015

The carnage wrought by the Omagh bomb in 1998
The carnage wrought by the Omagh bomb in 1998

The father of Omagh bombing victim Aiden Gallagher has spoken of the peace that he and his family get from attending the annual commemorative service in memory of the 29 people and two unborn babies murdered in the 1998 atrocity.

Michael Gallagher will address the 12th service organised by the Omagh Support and Self-help Group at the town's memorial garden at Drumragh Avenue on Sunday afternoon.

Relatives of those who died or were injured, townspeople and other victims' groups will come together for the 45-minute inter-denominational service.

The service will feature speakers from all the major religious faiths.

The speakers will be accompanied by local singer Leslie Matthews and there will be music from St Eugene's Band.

Mr Gallagher and his wife Patsy lost their only son, a car-loving 21-year-old, in the Real IRA bombing on that busy Saturday, August 15, 1998.

Mr Gallagher has campaigned tirelessly ever since on behalf of his son and all the Omagh victims to bring those responsible to justice.

No person has ever been convicted of the atrocity.

However, Monaghan man Seamus Daly will be appearing again in court via video-link on Tuesday on 33 charges relating to the bombing.

Last night Mr Gallagher told the Belfast Telegraph: "It's important that the loss we all shared is never forgotten.

"Grief is a very personal thing and it affects different people in different ways.

"Some of the victims' relatives may come for several years or not at all, and that's all right. But for me and my wife, and our daughter Cat and grandchildren, it's important for us to remember Aiden and all the others at the memorial garden each year.

"It's good to have those 45 minutes or so in the garden, as it's very peaceful.

"Afterwards there's a chance to have a cup of tea and catch up with people and what has happened in their lives over the year."

Michael's daughter Cat Wilkinson was only seven when her brother was murdered.

Her uncle was also murdered in an IRA ambush outside Omagh that year.

The mother-of-two has recently graduated with a Masters in peace and conflict studies with early years and said the deaths created a deep void in her life.

"My whole attitude to life changed that day," she said.

The service will have a British, Irish and Spanish dimension to it when it is held at 3pm to reflect the nationalities of those who died.

It will be attended by representatives from the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Office, and councillor Paul Robinson, vice chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.

There will be a chance to view 10,000 newspaper articles, 15,000 emails, 800 books of condolence and 1,000 sympathy cards from around the world which town librarian Evelyn Johns has compiled.

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