By Rebecca Black, PA
The announcement of a public inquiry into the Omagh bombing has been broadly welcomed by the bereaved families.
UK Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris’ decision was hailed as a “momentous day” by representatives of two of the families.
However, another family expressed reservation, and stressed the blame for the bomb must be firmly kept on the dissident republican terrorists who were responsible.
Some 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed on the Co Tyrone town in 1998 just months after the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and hundreds more were left injured.
It was planted by the dissident republican group, the Real IRA.
However, a High Court judgment in July 2021 found there should be an investigation into whether the attack could have been foiled.
Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed in the bomb, said they have been fighting for the probe for over 20 years.
“For those families that are seeking the truth about Omagh, this is hugely momentous,” he said.
“It’s what we have fought for over 20 years, and we’re glad we’re at a point now where we don’t need to do any more fighting, we can move forward, and we look forward to co-operating with the British government and the Irish government to get to the truth.
“If there are deficiencies within the system, hopefully they will be identified and rectified, that’s part of the function of a public inquiry.
“It’s not to re apportion blame from those who perpetrated this act on to those who were left to pick up the pieces, it’s to find out what happened, and if there were deficiencies to identify them, learn the lessons and pass the lessons on.”
Stanley McCombe, whose wife Ann was killed in the bomb, also welcomed the decision and said their loved ones were on their mind as they heard the announcement.
“You think about them every day, but more so now that we’ve got this far, and we’ve got someone who listened to us,” he said.
“I promised Ann after Ann was murdered that I would fight for justice for her, and we’re nearly there now.”
Claire Radford, whose brother Alan, 16, was killed in the bomb, said she welcomed the public inquiry but had some reservations.
“The journey with grief is never ending, you face the same battle every day you wake up, when Omagh is brought to the forefront of the media, we are now going into a public inquiry of sorts, it brings all those feelings back up to the surface that you’ve been trying to deal with for so long,” she said.
“It never goes away, but we’re regurgitating what had happened, today I transported back to 1998.
“I do welcome the public inquiry but I do have massive reservations that the public perspective could change from the terrorists, those who built a bomb, and drove it into Omagh town.
“I don’t want the onus to be removed from them, and that is my biggest fear.
“I will be wholeheartedly invested in it (the inquiry), but I do have those reservations.”