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Monday, 16 August, 1999, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
The day the clocks stopped
Denis Murray
Denis Murray: "The basic prejudices remain unchanged"
Writing in 1999, a year after the Omagh Bomb, BBC Ireland correspondent Denis Murray gave his personal view and what it meant for the peace process.

At 10 past three on the afternoon of August the 15th, 1998, the clocks in Ireland stopped.

That was the moment when the car bomb planted by the self-styled Real IRA exploded in the main street in a little market town called Omagh in Co. Tyrone.

The phone call from the bombers warning of the device was deliberately - deliberately - misleading. It was not where they said it would be.

The police cleared the area and what happened was that people, as it turned out, in no danger from the bomb, were evacuated to the precise spot where it had been left.

It's certain that the bombers did not intend to murder the 29 people who were killed.

What they intended was that members of the security forces would die.

The intention of the bombers was that people would die. To them, non-people.

Human beings who were in the uniform of what they call "Crown Forces".

Murder, plain and simple, Murder. A plan that people, those in uniform, would die.

And in the name of what? In the name of a crusade - a jihad - a holy war, to unite Ireland. To unite Ireland? Yes, to unite Ireland.

To end the partition of the six counties that make up Northern Ireland, which are part of the United Kingdom, from the other 26 Irish counties that make up the Irish Republic?

People united

Well, the bombers acheived one thing - not their alleged political end of uniting Ireland politically - but of uniting all of the people of Ireland in disgust - at their out-of-the-past, unthinking stupidity.

Their blind hatred of those who disagree with them; their one-eyed belief that the "Brits only understand one thing - the barrel of a gun."

Omagh victim
Injury and loss: Indiscriminate and total
And by the way, a Brit, in their warped view of reality, is anyone who disagrees with them.

You could almost feel sorry for them, and their pathetic views - except that what they do, like all the paramilitaries on both sides, is to enforce those views on the rest of us at the end of that barrel of the gun.

Those who planted the Omagh bomb killed 29 people - and that figure doesn't include the unborn twins in the womb of their mother who was one of the 29.

The old, the young, the unborn - all, at random, the victims of those who planned, organised, and placed that bomb.

Human 'coming together'

So what is the legacy of Omagh?

In the town at least, a coming together of all denominations, and none.

A human coming together of people who had suffered at the hands of the anonymous bombers.

Woman looking at flowers
Mourning: Does it offer hope?
Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter suffered. Hand that to the bombers - they weren't discriminating about who they murdered and maimed.

Never look for "turning points" in the Northern Ireland so-called Troubles. There aren't any.

Despite all the talk that Omagh was one such, just go ask the relatives of those who died and were maimed there, and they'll tell you.

What they'll tell you is this - my loved one did not die in the name of peace.

Minute's silence

Everyone in Ireland can tell you exactly where the were and what they were doing when they heard the news of the Omagh atrocity.

Exactly one week later, there was a memorial service in the town. All across the island, at the same time, there were other services, in virtually every town, village and crossroads.

A minute's silence - just everywhere.

Yes - the clocks stopped. Just everywhere.

But sadly, only for a moment. The basic prejudices in this small corner of the United Kingdom are unchanged.

The politicians are still unable to agree on how to make last year's Good Friday Agreement work.

The men of violence on both sides continue to beat and shoot those they regard as deserving of being beaten and shot.

The overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland want an end to it but those on the extremes keep it going.

The rest of us held to ransom by a few, and we can't stop them.

To use the chorus from the old song, may God in His mercy be kind to Belfast.

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