Politicians have no answers for Omagh bomb victims

Sandra Chapman
Sandra Chapman

The 20th anniversary of the Omagh bombing has made for grim reading this week.

The most painful conclusions are that none of the perpetrators ever faced a court of law for their actions and probably never will and many of the victims still await compensation. They and their families remain scarred by the terrible events and we can be certain that such an experience is nearly impossible to overcome.

Devastation caused by the Omagh bomb 20 years ago

Devastation caused by the Omagh bomb 20 years ago

When DUP leader Arlene Foster suggested “we must work to ensure no future generations suffer the pain that terrorism dealt so indiscriminately upon the people of Omagh that day’’ one wonders what we can do since most of us think we are doing our best. She hasn’t any new ideas it seems.

Some of us were prepared to give Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill a chance until we realised she was happy to defend her continued attendance at commemorations of republicans.

Ms O’Neill wants all political leaders here to work towards ‘‘a better future’’ which doesn’t repeat the “lessons of our past”. Empty words and no comfort I’m certain for the grieving families of Omagh. So, like Arlene, she has no new ideas either. They belong to two failed political parties whose attitudes blight attempts at progress.

I was moving house on the day of the Omagh bombing. I remember it being a pitiful, wet day.

My bad back had practically given up and I could only function with copious quantities of painkillers. Yet all the painkillers in the world will not help the families affected by the Omagh bombing. Most will take their heartbreak to their graves.

Five years ago I took some visitors to Omagh. They knew of the tragedy and wanted to see the place for themselves. They took their pictures and commented on how nice the town was. All I could feel was a terrible sadness. I haven’t been back to Omagh since but before this year is out I will go back there and read all the names on the memorial. We can’t be allowed to forget evil. If we don’t confront it properly there will never be peace in this country.

The IRA take the view they have 800 years of British domination of Ireland to assuage. Introducing an Irish language will be a mere drop in the ocean towards that. If the Prods imagine that building bigger and better bonfires on the eleventh night is going to maintain their hold on the north, they’ve another thing coming to them.

The two babies who died in the Omagh bombing before they were even born would be young adults now, maybe at university, perhaps even married with children of their own.

To be denied those opportunities in life is a crime. Then there is Kevin Skelton who lost his wife Philomena in the bombing and who described this week how six years later he just wanted to shoot himself. Only the thought of what it would do to his mother stopped him pulling the trigger of the gun he was holding to his chin that day. I call that bravery.

Sinn Fein blithely think we should all move on from these tragedies and take up the opportunities they can present in the future. How heartbroken are they over Omagh to name but one atrocity? Just last week republican supporter in chief Gerry Adams was touting his latest cook book. Did he think this would distract us from one of the worst tragedies this country has ever faced? Some say he hopes one day to become Ireland’s president. There’s a generation of young people in the south (the selfie generation) who may not want a president who harks back to the `republican heroes’ of the past. That’s the trouble with republicans, they become old men and women living on their dreams, dying eventually without seeing those dreams come true.

Omagh victims need their compensation. Yet the government dithers and continues to pay the full salaries of our former Assembly members who most people believe don’t deserve it. Even the chief constable admits to failure in putting the perpetrators behind bars. Twenty years on this is simply not good enough.