Wednesday 19 June 2019

Omagh bombing victims' relatives accuse Varadkar of anniversary 'snub'

Police officers and firefighters inspect the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh. Picture: PA
Police officers and firefighters inspect the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh. Picture: PA
A police officer looking at the damage caused by the explosion in Market Street (PA)
An estimated crowd of 15,000 packed Market Square for the rally following the Omagh bombing in 1998

Claire McNeilly

Relatives of those killed in the Omagh bombing have accused the Taoiseach of a snub after he turned down invitations to services marking the 20th anniversary of the atrocity.

Two events will be held in the Co Tyrone town on Sunday and next Wednesday to remember the victims of the 1998 massacre.

However, Leo Varadkar and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley have already turned down invitations to join families of the bereaved at a commemoration on Sunday.

Mr Varadkar last year attended a memorial to mark 30 years since the Enniskillen bombing.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden (21) died in the blast along with 28 others, including a woman pregnant with twins, said Omagh families have been "snubbed and disrespected".

"There is a sense that Omagh has been bypassed or forgotten about. I'm delighted the Taoiseach went to Enniskillen but there's a huge problem for both the Irish and British governments around Omagh, because they are trying to avoid us.

"Mr Varadkar and Ms Bradley have both attended other events in Northern Ireland, which I respect, but it is extremely disrespectful that they cannot find time to attend the 20th anniversary commemoration, given that Omagh was the worst atrocity of the Troubles."

Kevin Skelton, whose wife Philomena also died at Omagh, said it was a "double snub" which shows they "don't care about the Omagh victims".

The UK government will be represented by a senior Northern Ireland Office (NIO) official, while Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys will attend on behalf of the Republic.

An NIO spokeswoman said Ms Bradley expressed "her deepest sympathy to all those affected by the Omagh bombing", adding she will be abroad this weekend. A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said: "Unfortunately, the Taoiseach is not in a position to attend."

"A senior Government minister will represent the Irish Government at the 20th anniversary of the Omagh bombing memorial service this Sunday.

"The Irish Government's deepest sympathies are with all the families who have been affected by this atrocity."

Irish Independent

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