Charles visit shows Omagh bomb victims ‘not forgotten’

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall lay a wreath at the Omagh Bomb memorial garden as part of their tour of Northern Ireland
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall lay a wreath at the Omagh Bomb memorial garden as part of their tour of Northern Ireland

The Prince of Wales’ visit to the scene of one of the biggest mass killings in the Troubles shows victims have not been forgotten, a campaigner said.

Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall reflected in silence at a memorial garden dedicated to 29 people and two unborn babies killed by the Real IRA Omagh car bomb blast in August 1998.

The Prince of Wales speaks to firemen who were first responders at the Omagh bombing

The Prince of Wales speaks to firemen who were first responders at the Omagh bombing

They laid a floral wreath of thyme, lavender and rosemary, picked from the garden of the royal residence in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle, and paused for a moment’s reflection.

Michael Gallagher lost his son Aiden, 21, to the blast just months after the Good Friday peace agreement.

He said: “This is recognition that Omagh has not been forgotten and we are in a very critical time coming up to the 20th anniversary. It is nice to know that other people are still thinking about us.”

Charles visited the Co Tyrone town, including its hospital, shortly after the blast.

The Prince of Wales uses a power driver to put screws into an ornamental wheelbarrow during a visit to the Owenkillew Community Centre in Gortin

The Prince of Wales uses a power driver to put screws into an ornamental wheelbarrow during a visit to the Owenkillew Community Centre in Gortin

On Wednesday he officially opened a new hospital in the town. The old one was the epicentre of the relief effort for those who suffered the most grievous of injuries.

Donna Marie McGillion suffered burns to a large proportion of her body.

She was among around 50 survivors and victims who met the prince at an arts centre in the town.

She said: “We go through pain every day and it is lovely to know that other people still remember that.”

The Prince of Wales shelters under an umbrella as he has his picture takem with local children during a visit to the Owenkillew Community Centre in Gortin

The Prince of Wales shelters under an umbrella as he has his picture takem with local children during a visit to the Owenkillew Community Centre in Gortin

Mr Gallagher said some families still could not come into the town because of the trauma.

“The issue here is those responsible were never brought before the courts in either jurisdiction and that still for many families causes pain.”

There were emotional scenes as the prince and duchess met families of the dead, paramedics, firefighters and police officers who had to deal with the carnage. Charles and Camilla also walked up the main street of the Co Tyrone market town past the site of the blast.

Gaelic football, rare breed sheep, traditional music and natural remedies for animals were among the experiences on the menu for the royal couple at Owenkillew Community Centre in the village of Gortin.

Centre manager Angela O’Brien said yesterday’s visit had been a great day for the whole community.

“It was a chance to show off a thriving rural community in the west of Ireland that not many know about,” she said.