Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 10:54 UK

Wording behind service boycott

The memorial consists of 31 small mirrors representing the 29 people and unborn twins killed in the blast
The memorial consists of 31 small mirrors representing the 29 people and unborn twins killed in the blast

By Julian Fowler
BBC Newsline, Omagh

Saturday, 15 August 1998 in Omagh, was supposed to have been the finale of a week-long cross-community festival.

Relations between the Catholic and Protestant communities were strong in this County Tyrone town, and remain so today.

The response to the atrocity - which killed 29 people and unborn twins - showed the real depth of community spirit as the town was united in grief.

That is why the divisions and controversy surrounding the commemoration of the 10th anniversary have caused much sadness.

At least 10 of the victim's families, members of the Omagh Support and Self Help Group, were boycotting the memorial service organised by Omagh District Council.

They are unhappy with the way the council has handled the contentious issue of the wording on the memorial.

When the design for the new Garden of Light was unveiled, to replace the temporary memorial garden, the families were not present.

They believed the memorial stone referring to the people murdered by a dissident republican car bomb would be removed and not replaced.

An independent team was appointed by the council to resolve the issue of the wording.

They held more than 80 meetings with individuals and groups affected by the bomb to try and reach a consensus.

A worker cleans the pavement under a glass obelisk sculpture, part of the memorial for the Omagh bomb victims
A worker cleans the pavement under a glass obelisk sculpture, part of the memorial for the Omagh bomb victims

They proposed a lengthy narrative to pay tribute to those who were killed, tell the story of the bomb, and contain words of reflection.

It included the wording on the original memorial stone and at the time the proposal received unanimous political approval in the council and was broadly welcomed by the bereaved.

The civic ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary will include the dedication of the Garden of Light designed by artist Sean Hillen and landscape architect Desmond Fitzgerald.

Large computer-controlled mirrors will track the sun and direct light via 31 smaller mirrors - one for each of the victims - from the memorial garden.

It will illuminate a glass obelisk containing a Tyrone Crystal heart at the bomb site on Market Street.

Some victims feel that the garden is no longer a place of remembrance, but will instead become more of a tourist attraction.

Three of the families have requested that the names of their loved ones are not included in the list of those killed on the memorial.

The Omagh Support and Self Help group will be holding their own service or remembrance on Sunday, as they have for the last five years.

But a sign of how bad relations are between this group and the council is that the families asked for written permission to use the council-owned memorial garden.

Ultimately, many of the divisions are an expression of the families' frustration that 10 years after the worst atrocity of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, no one has been brought to justice.

The process to erect a permanent memorial was supposed to help bring healing and reconciliation, but the search for the truth of what happened that day remains as elusive as ever.




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