'Hatred and violence will not continue to threaten us': Memorial marks 25th anniversary of Omagh bombing

'Hatred and violence will not continue to threaten us': Memorial marks 25th anniversary of Omagh bombing

A SERVICE to mark the 25th anniversary of the Omagh bombing has heard about the importance of both remembering the past and building a future 'defined by peace and understanding'.

Drumragh Parish Priest Father Eugene Hasson made the comments at today's service held in memory of the 29 people killed, which included a woman who was pregnant with twins.

The memorial event took place at the Omagh Memorial Garden, just a few hundred feet from the site of bomb on Market Street on August 15, 1998.

The atrocity, carried out by the Real IRA, was the single deadliest attack of the Troubles.

'Remembrance and solidarity'

Today's memorial was organised by the Omagh Support and Self-Help Group, Families Moving On and the Omagh Churches' Forum, of which Fr Hasson is co-chair.

He said that in spite of the 'unimaginable pain and devastation' caused by the attack, the response to it showed the spirit of unity and reconciliation within the community.

"The memories of that fateful afternoon are etched into our collective consciousness, serving as a stark reminder of the importance of peace, unity and compassion," said Fr Hasson.

The service took place at the Omagh Memorial Garden, just a few hundred feet from the site of the tragedy (Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

"Amidst the darkness that we witnessed, the resilience and strength of the people of Omagh — who came together in the face of this adversity to support one another and rebuild their lives — is what we remember today too.

"The spirit of unity that emerged during those trying times continues to shine today as we stand here united in remembrance and solidarity.

"As we reflect on the lives lost, we also recognise the enduring courage of the survivors and their families who have displayed unwavering determination and hope in the face of unimaginable grief.

"Their resilience is a testament to the human spirit, the human capacity to heal and find solace in the embrace of community and love."

Edith White and her granddaughter Bethany White, whose family members Fred and Bryan White were killed in the attack (Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

He added: "Let us take this moment to not only remember the past but also again to recommit ourselves to building a future, a future that is defined by peace and understanding, where we can create an environment of empathy, dialogue and compassion and where we can foster those values so that hatred and violence will not continue to threaten us."

The Irish Government was represented at the event by Peter Burke, Minister of State for European Affairs and Defence.

Northern Ireland Office minister Lord Jonathan Caine was representing the British Government.

Amid songs and readings, the names of the deceased were read out, followed by the Lord's Prayer in Irish, Spanish and English to reflect the nationalities of the victims.

Tribute to 'visionary' priest

Concluding the service, the father of one of the victims paid tribute to late priest Father Kevin Mullan, who passed away in May.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden died in the bombing, said Fr Mullan was among those who were 'instrumental in rebuilding the hearts and minds of those affected by the tragedy'.

"He attended the victims on the scene, anointing with the last rites and providing comfort to the injured and the dying," said Mr Gallagher.

Michael Gallagher, right, who lost his son Aiden in the Omagh bomb attack, lays a wreath in the memorial garden (Image: PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)

"We will always be indebted to him for the strength, compassion and courage he demonstrated on the day and the months, years and decades that followed.

"Kevin was a visionary that seen beyond green and orange, it didn't matter to him if you worshipped in a church or chapel.

"His wisdom and influence filtered into the community as he worked tirelessly and selflessly to create unity and togetherness.

Omagh bomb survivor Donna-Marie McGillion, right, who suffered severe injuries in the attack, attended today’s memorial service (Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

"We will remember him as a decent and honourable human being, who will impact on generations to come."

No one has ever been convicted over the attack, which came just months after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Earlier this year, the British Government announced that an independent statutory inquiry will be established into the preventability of the bombing.

A floral tribute from Families Moving On, one of the groups that organised today’s event (Image: PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)