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Friday, August 13, 1999 Published at 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK


Omagh's legacy of trauma after bombing

People who helped at the scene are still being treated for trauma

The anniversary of the Omagh bombing will be acutely painful not only for those injured and bereaved in the atrocity in which 29 died, but for the wider community.

A study carried out by the Sperrin and Lakeland Health Trust into the continuing effects of the bombing has found that members of the County Tyrone community devastated by the bomb, are still coming forward for counselling.

People who helped at the scene of the Real IRA bomb in Market Street on a busy shopping Saturday on 15 August 1998, members of the emergency services and others are still suffering deep trauma.

[ image: Richard Walker: It was a terrible sight]
Richard Walker: It was a terrible sight
One shop worker said he needed months of counselling after helping a woman in the street.

Richard Walker said: "There was a woman lying with her clothes nearly half blown off her with her leg broken and her knees all broken. It was a terrible sight.

"Somebody said go and get a stretcher and I couldn't get a stretcher so I just went and ran and got a bit of timber.

The Search for Peace
"I went for over two months of counselling once a week and it really helped. They got me to make a tape of happened and play it over and over to get it out of your system."

A counsellor at Omagh's Bridge Centre sad that for many people time has not helped ease the trauma.

Sean Collins said: "At the start it was acute and it was okay for people to have nightmares and flashbacks, and be sleepless and irritable.

"But at this stage with it going on for so long, it is difficult to help them get through."

[ image: David Bolton: There is an ongoing need fror therapy]
David Bolton: There is an ongoing need fror therapy
David Bolton led the survey of the Omagh community to assess what response will be needed from the health services as time goes on.

He said that positive initiatives would help the whole community, but that many people will continue to need individual support.

Mr Bolton said: "I think inspirational and positive things will do a lot to help people in the long term, recognising that at the individual level we would also need the ongoing counselling and therapy and support.

The survey also found that people who were not even in Omagh when the dissident republican bomb went off, are still suffering.

[ image: Pat Grant: Officers wanted to be there to help]
Pat Grant: Officers wanted to be there to help
Ambulance station officer Pat Grant said: "We still have staff who are suffering and who have conditions related to what happened on that day.

"Obviously we had the effects on the staff who dealt with the incident, who dealt with the injured and the fatalities on the day.

"But we also had staff who felt guilty, perhaps, because they weren't there on the day because they had been away on leave.

"They wanted to be there to help their colleagues and the public."

Trauma experts at the Bridge Centre say that the recovery of many of the people receiving counselling is bound up with the fate of the peace process.

A return to the violence of the last 30 years of Troubles or another atrocity could be very damaging.

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