Thursday 27 June 2019

'It's inexcusable' - Charity shop apologises for keeping shop open Omagh commemoration

People observe a minutes silence on Market Street, Omagh, during the ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Omagh bombing on 15 August 1998. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire
People observe a minutes silence on Market Street, Omagh, during the ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Omagh bombing on 15 August 1998. Pic: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Brett Campbell

A charity has apologised to the people of Omagh for being "insensitive and disrespectful" after failing to close its shop during a commemoration service to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing.

The British Heart Foundation's (BHF) charity shop on Market Street, just yards from where the bomb exploded on August 15, 1998, was one of a handful of stores to stay open during the service last Wednesday.

Eugene Floyd, whose daughter Alison was injured in the explosion which killed 29 people and unborn twins, branded the decision to stay open as a "disgrace".

He also resigned as a volunteer at the shop.

"It should never have happened. It was most disrespectful to the victims and their relatives - the least they could have done was close," he told the Tyrone Constitution.

The widower and father-of-seven refused to work his shift last Thursday after discovering the store remained open during the service.

"I went straight in and told the assistant manager that I could no longer be a volunteer," he said.

Mr Floyd praised Oxfam volunteers who served refreshments to those at the service.

"They closed their doors. The British Heart Foundation did absolutely nothing," he said.

"I'm sure the management team in Omagh made headquarters aware of this service, after all the shop is only 50 yards away from the site of the bomb.

"I'm totally disgusted.

Mr Floyd, whose wife Kathleen passed away in 1992, recalled his frantic search for his daughter who was standing beside the bomb when it exploded.

"When I learnt Alison had been injured I had no idea what happened to her," he said.

"When I got to the hospital I experienced tunnel vision.

"I was so focused on seeing Alison's face. When she grabbed my wrist I cried."

She escaped with only a graze to her head.

BHF regional director Jane Flannery travelled from her office in Glasgow to apologise for the "inexcusable" mistake.

"We want to extend a huge apology to Mr Floyd as well as to our local staff and volunteers and of course to the wider Omagh community," she said.

"I have been in telephone contact with Mr Floyd to apologise and also written to him to ask for a meeting to apologise in person."

Ms Flannery said she apologised "unreservedly" for failing to "give the 20th anniversary of the Omagh bomb the respect it deserved" and expressed regret over its failure to close along with other retail outlets in the town.

"To not do so was insensitive and disrespectful to a community which has welcomed us with open arms since we opened in March," she added.

"This was a grave error in judgment and something which should not have happened."

Omagh Support and Self Help Group spokesperson Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aiden in the blast, has accepted Ms Flannery's apology after meeting her.

He said: "I welcome the apology which I'm convinced is sincere. While we don't want to distract from the valuable work this charity is doing, there is a lesson here for all retailers when it comes to dealing with similar events in the future."

Mr Floyd has indicated he will not reconsider his decision to resign as a shop volunteer.

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