1998 – Books of condolences opened in the aftermath of the Omagh tragedy are closed. More than 150,000 people from across Northern Ireland are estimated to have signed the books.
The Omagh bombing was a car bomb attack carried out by the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA), a splinter group of former Provisional Irish Republican Army members opposed to the Belfast Agreement, on Saturday 15 August 1998, in Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Twenty-nine people died as a result of the attack and approximately 220 people were injured. The attack was described by the BBC as “Northern Ireland’s worst single terrorist atrocity” and by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as an “appalling act of savagery and evil”. Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness condemned the attack and the RIRA itself.
The victims included people from many different backgrounds: Protestants, Catholics, a Mormon teenager, five other teenagers, six children, a woman pregnant with twins, two Spanish tourists, and other tourists on a day trip from the Republic of Ireland. The nature of the bombing created a strong international and local outcry against the RIRA, which later apologised, and spurred on the Northern Ireland peace process.
A retrospective report by the Police Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, in December 2001 concluded that people “were let down by defective leadership, poor judgement and a lack of urgency” in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The RUC has obtained circumstantial and coincidental evidence against some suspects, but it has not come up with anything to convict anyone of the bombing. Builder and publican Colm Murphy was tried, convicted, and then released after it was revealed that the Gardaí forged interview notes used in the case. Murphy’s nephew Sean Hoey was also tried and found not guilty. Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said that he expects no further prosecutions. In June 2009, the families of all the killed victims won a £1.6 million civil action against four unconvicted suspects.
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