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Saturday, September 5, 1998 Published at 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK

Omagh bomb claims 29th victim

The bomb was planted in a car parked in a busy street

The death toll of the Omagh bomb blast in Northern Ireland has risen to 29 following the death of a man in hospital.

The dead man has been named as retired baker Sean McGrath, 61, a married father of four who came from the County Tyrone town.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was "deeply saddened" that the "terrible bomb" had claimed another victim.

Two women remain critically ill in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, following the province's worst single atrocity three weeks ago.

In total, 31 people are being treated in hospitals across Northern Ireland.

'Back where we were'

Mr McGrath's death brought the horror of the bombing back into focus for the people of Omagh as they tried to return to normality after the stream of VIP visitors, including US President Bill Clinton, over the past weeks.

Local MP, Ulster Unionist William Thompson, said: "This highlights the fact that the suffering is far from over, and indeed there are others who are still in danger and could lose their lives."

Mr McGrath was described as "a decent and very generous gentleman, unassuming and charitable", by friend and local independent Omagh councillor Paddy McGowan.

He said: "We are back where we were, it just brings it all back.

"We knew he was extremely ill, but we had some hope there was a possibility that all of those badly hurt would make a recovery."

Splinter groups

The blast was caused by IRA dissidents, the Real IRA.

[ image: The bomb sparked an anti-terror clampdown]
The bomb sparked an anti-terror clampdown
New anti-terror laws aimed at clamping down on terrorist splinter groups were introduced in the UK and the Republic of Ireland as a result.

The Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act gained Royal Assent after clearing all its stages in the House of Lords early on Friday morning.

The new measures include:

  • Allowing people suspected of belonging to terrorist groups not following the peace process to be convicted on the word of a senior police officer

  • Interpreting a suspect's silence as corroboration of such police evidence

  • Allowing the seizure of a convicted person's assets

  • Making it illegal to conspire within the UK to commit terrorist acts outside the country

North and south of the Irish border, people are now waiting to see whether the new legislation will bring about a police blitz on terrorist suspects.

Mr Clinton and Mr Blair visited the spot where the bomb exploded during their visit to the town on Thursday and unveiled a plaque in memory of those who died.

Clinton 'overwhelmed'

They then walked through the town's main street, Market Street, which bore the brunt of the explosion.

Earlier, in the town's leisure centre, they met the victims of the Omagh bombing, and the family and friends of those who died.

Mr Clinton said on Friday he was "overwhelmed" by the tragedy after the meetings.

The latest news was relayed to Mr Clinton as he continued his Irish visit in Limerick.

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