Miami Showband victims ‘looked down’ on 40th anniversary service

Relatives of the Omagh bomb victims were among those who paid their respects at the ceremony at Buskhill
Relatives of the Omagh bomb victims were among those who paid their respects at the ceremony at Buskhill

Miami Showband survivor Des McAlea said he felt his murdered bandmates “were looking down” during a commemoration ceremony at the scene of the atrocity.

Around 200 people gathered at Buskhill – between Banbridge and Newry – for the 2.30pm wreath-laying service to remember the 40th anniversary of the murders of frontman Fran O’Toole, 29, guitarist Tony Geraghty, 23, and trumpeter 32-year-old Brian McCoy.

This was the first time a ceremony was held at the scene of the atrocity.

“The weather forecast today was meant to be really bad, but just as the commemoration started it was as if Fran, Brian and Tony were looking down on us and just as we were about to start the sun came out and it stayed out during the whole ceremony,” said 64-year-old Des.

Mr McAlea, whose stage name was Des Lee, added: “We had politicians from all persuasions, people from Daisy Hill and ex-RUC from Newry police station. It was an amazing day.

“I was there, Stephen Travers, Brian Maguire who was our road manager at the time and so many people who were fans of the band came along because they saw it on Facebook and in the newspapers.

“People came along because they wanted to shake our hands.”

Mr McAlea, who earlier said the atrocity was with him every day, said the Buskhill commemoration “did not make me any more at peace”.

“I want to see a monument for the lads in Northern Ireland,” he added.

“I would like to see the monument in Belfast or Newry, but preferably Belfast because the lads need to be remembered.

“There was also a great commemoration in Dublin on Saturday with the Dublin Gospel choir singing and a priest giving a service.”

Two UVF men involved in the atrocity, Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville, were also killed when the bomb they planted detonated prematurely.