Blame must stay with Real IRA bombers, says Omagh victim’s sister

Blame must stay with Real IRA bombers, says Omagh victim’s sister

Blame for the Omagh bomb must firmly rest with the Real IRA, a victim’s sister said after a public inquiry into the atrocity was ordered.

The announcement of a public inquiry by Northern Ireland Minister Chris Heaton-Harris on Thursday was widely welcomed by those left behind.

Clare Radford, whose brother Alan, 16, was killed, welcomed the announcement but said she had some reservations.

Some 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed in the town of Co Tyrone in 1998, just months after the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement was signed, and hundreds more injured.

It was planted by the dissident Republican group Real IRA.

A July 2021 High Court ruling found that it should be investigated whether the attack could have been thwarted.

Ms Radford described her family’s grief as never-ending but said it will only increase when public attention is focused on the atrocities.

“You wake up to the same struggle every day, when Omagh is brought to the forefront of the media, we now go into some sort of public inquiry that brings back to the surface all those feelings that you’ve been trying to cope with for so long to become,” she said.

Police officers and firefighters inspect the damage caused by a bomb blast on Market Street, Omagh (Paul McErlane/PA)

“It never goes away, but we’re choking back on what happened. Today I was transported back to 1998.

“I applaud the public inquiry but have grave concerns that the public’s perspective on the terrorists, the ones who built a bomb and drove it into the city of Omagh, could change.

“I don’t want the burden lifted from them and that’s my biggest fear.

“I will be wholeheartedly invested in[the investigation]but I have these reservations.”

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed in the bombing, said the announcement was of great importance to families searching for the truth about Omagh.

Public Inquiry into the Omagh Bombing
Omagh bomb activists Michael Gallagher (right) and Stanley McCombe talk to Omagh bomb advocate John Fox (left) (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

“This is what we have fought for over 20 years and we are happy that we are now at a point where we no longer have to fight, we can move on and we look forward to working with the British Government and the Irish Government to bring it about.” find out the truth,” he said.

“If there are flaws in the system, hopefully they will be identified and fixed, that’s part of the function of a public inquiry.

“It’s not about shifting the blame from those who committed this act to those who had to pick up the pieces, but to find out what happened and if there were flaws, to identify them, to learn the lessons and pass on the lessons.”

Stanley McCombe, whose wife Ann was killed in the attack, also welcomed the decision and said the family’s thoughts were on hearing the announcement.

“You think about her every day, but now that we’ve come this far and we have someone who’s been listening to us, even more so,” he said.

“I promised Ann after Ann was murdered that I would fight for justice for her and we’re almost there now.”

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