A DECISION by the Taoiseach and British Secretary of State not to attend this weekend’s 20th anniversary commemoration of the Omagh bombing atrocity has been slammed as ‘disrespectful and a snub’ by the Omagh Support and Self Help Group, which is helping to organise the event.
Commemorations marking two decades since the atrocity are taking place on Sunday and next Wednesday, August 15, the exact date of the 1998 Market Street bombing which claimed 31 lives.
But the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and British Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, have already responded to say that they will not be joining the families of those bereaved at this Sunday’s commemoration.
Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was among those who died, described the decision of the two politicians as “extremely disrespectful.”
“There is no polite way of explaining this decision in our view other than the Omagh families have been snubbed,” Mr Gallagher told the UH.
“We always seem to be frustrated by either the British or Irish Governments and the lack of co-operation from them. It is extremely disrespectful that they do not see fit to attend.”
Leo Varadkar has been a frequent visitor to the North during his tenure as Taoiseach, and has been present at Remembrance Sunday events in Enniskillen.
Mr Gallagher continued, “The Taoiseach clearly found time to attend other events in Northern Ireland. While I would not question him going to those events, the fact is that it would only take one hour out of his schedule to come to Omagh. After all, he is unlikely to attend the 21st anniversary.”
He added, “It is extremely disappointing that the Secretary of State has also turned down our invitation. Omagh was the worst single atrocity in the history of this state and the families have been pursuing truth and justice for the past 20 years.”
Among those expected to attend this Sunday’s memorial, which gets underway at 3pm at the Memorial Garden, are the former Police Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, the Chief Constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, and the Duke of Abercorn.
A senior official from the Northern Ireland office is due to attend on behalf of the British Government. The Business, Enterprise and Innovation Minister, Heather Humphries, will represent the Irish Government.
However, Mr Gallagher, believes that the Taoiseach and the Secretary of State should have made the effort to come.
“We have attempted to be totally even-handed and inclusive in terms of the people who have been invited,” he added.
“It would have said a lot about the Irish Government if he had accepted the invitation. We acknowledge the fact that Heather Humphries is coming and she will be made very welcome as well the representative from the Northern Ireland Office, but the Taoiseach and Secretary of State should be here.”