Belfast Telegraph

£16,000 Irish boost for projects commemorating 20th anniversary of Omagh bomb

Events marking 20 years since the Omagh bomb will be a "fitting tribute" to victims throughout the Troubles, organisers have said.

The Irish Government is funding a special series of commemoration projects ahead of this summer's anniversary. A cash injection worth £16,000 will help pay for remembrance works like art and music.

The Real IRA dissident republican blast killed 29 in the busy Co Tyrone market town. Nobody was convicted of murder despite extensive police investigations.

Cat Wilkinson, whose brother Aiden Gallagher, 21, died in the August 1998 explosion, said she was grateful for the extra money.

"It will help the families who will be thinking and reflecting back over the last 20 years.

"It gives them something to focus positively on and really connect with the rest of the community."

The Omagh bombing inflicted the greatest loss of life of any terror atrocity in the history of the Northern Ireland Troubles and came just months after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The dead came from both sides of the Irish border, England and Spain. One of the victims was pregnant with twins.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade funding has been allocated to the Omagh Support and Self-Help Group, run by and for the bereaved and offering services like welfare and complementary therapies.

Bags of wildflower seeds will be decorated with paintings and words themed around Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney's line "Believe that a farther shore is reachable from here".

They will be put together as an installation by artist Carole Kane in a throwback to events of the time when floral works made from masses of wreaths received from around the world were presented to the bereaved families.

At the anniversary event, the bags of seeds will be distributed for scattering later, in some cases around the world at the scene of other atrocities.

A newly-composed music piece will be performed by Omagh Community Youth Choir.

Ms Wilkinson urged the local and wider community to get involved, since the whole community was affected by what was a "brutal and callous" attack on civil society.

"The families of Omagh felt enormous support worldwide which gave them the courage, strength and hope to face the difficult journey ahead," she said.

"We would hope that this project would be a fitting tribute to the victims, survivors, witnesses, first responders and civic and religious leaders who have not only been affected by this atrocity but throughout the history of the Troubles."

Omagh District Council is also organising a series of memorial events.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said: "Support for this vital reconciliation work is an important expression of the Government's unwavering commitment to peace and reconciliation on this island as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement."

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