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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Queen visits Omagh bomb site
Secretary of state shows the Queen the Omagh bomb site
Secretary of state shows the Queen the bomb site
The Queen has visited the site of a terrorist bomb which killed 29 people in Northern Ireland.

In an unscheduled stop, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited the scene of the atrocity and passed the memorial garden which commemorates the victims.

The Real IRA bombing in Omagh, County Tyrone, in August 1998 was the largest single loss of life during the Troubles.

Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aidan in the attack, said he rang the Northern Ireland Office to complain after finding out it was not part of the original itinerary.

The Queen began a series of engagements on Tuesday
The Queen began a series of engagements on Tuesday

Mr Gallagher said that he had asked the Queen to return to Omagh when a permanent memorial to those killed in the attack was built.

A journalist from the Sun newspaper, Charlie Rea, said he told Palace officials it would have been a public relations disaster if the Royal couple had not visited the site of the atrocity.

However, the NIO said it was not aware of any pressure being brought to bear over the decision.

The Queen also met representatives from various project groups throughout Northern Ireland who have received grant aid from the New Opportunities Fund.

It was established in 1998 to make grants to education, health and environment projects.


The Queen and the Duke were given a short presentation on the Omagh 2010 Vision, an economic and infrastructural plan for the town.

Later on Tuesday, the Queen and Prince Philip arrived at Hillsborough where they are scheduled to attend two separate events.

The Queen will present charters conferring city status to Lisburn and Newry, while Prince Phillip will attend a garden party and present 100 Duke of Edinburgh awards.

Earlier in the day, the Royal couple attended a garden party at Loughry Agricultural College in Cookstown, County Tyrone as part of the Jubilee visit to the province.

Amongst those who met the Royal couple were relatives of those killed in three separate terrorist attrocities; the bombings of Enniskillen, La Mon and Omagh.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid invited the Queen and Prince Philip to plant a tree, assisted by estates foreman Norman Harkness who has worked at Loughry for 34 years.

Prince Philip visited Fisher Engineering
Prince Philip visited Fisher Engineering

Accompanied by Dr Reid and Security Minister Jane Kennedy, the Royal couple also met some of the 1,000 invited guests involved in voluntary, community and public service, which is the theme of the Golden Jubilee.

The Queen began a series of engagements in Northern Ireland on Tuesday with a visit to County Fermanagh.

Crowds braved the strong winds to greet the Queen when she visited Ballinamallard.

She then travelled to a childcare facility, Rascals PlayStation, where she met children and teenagers from the local community.

Prince Philip visited Fisher Engineering in the town.

The Queen arrived at Hillsborough Castle on Monday evening with the Duke for her 15th visit to the province.

Later on Tuesday she will also give a short speech to assembly members at Stormont.

New era

A special service to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee will be held at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

Crowds greeted the Queen's arrival
Crowds greeted the Queen's arrival

She last visited the province in November 2001 when she toured a number of towns during a one-day visit.

There was speculation following the visit that the Queen may be preparing to visit Dublin for the first time to signal the start of a new era in Anglo-Irish relations.

It is believed any planned visit would probably be after the Golden Jubilee year.

It would be the first visit to the Republic of Ireland by a reigning British monarch since the country achieved independence nearly 80 years ago.

The BBC's Denis Murray
"Arguably the most significant moment of the Golden Jubilee so far"
The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"This is the Queen's fifteenth visit to Northern Ireland"
See also:

13 May 02 | Northern Ireland
Queen arrives in NI for Jubilee visit
15 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Queen flies out of Northern Ireland
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