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1998: 'Omagh will never be the same'
On 15 August 1998, lorry driver Kevin Skelton and his family went shopping for school uniforms in Omagh town centre.

Soon after arriving on Market Street a bomb exploded, killing his wife and seriously injuring his youngest daughter, Shona.

He told his story to On This Day.

We arrived in Omagh at approximately 1355. Shortly after there was a bomb scare and we were told to move down the street.

I asked one of the traffic wardens where it was and he said, "I think there's a bomb by the courthouse."

We moved down and I went into Kelly's Newsagents and got pencils and pens for the kiddies going back to school.

The police came into the shop again and asked us to move on down.

I found my wife lying face-down in the rubble

We were looking for a pair of brown shoes for Shona so went into a shoe shop across the street and then into SD Kells.

By this stage I was scundered [bored] walking about with women shopping so I told my wife I was going to nip next door.

I went in and then remembered she'd asked for money earlier, so I went to go back.

But as I turned to go out the bomb went off.

The glass in the shop I was in was sucked out and I walked out after it.

The cries of people and smell of burning was something that will live with me the rest of my life

I went in through what was left of the window of SD Kells and I found my wife lying face-down in the rubble.

She'd been blown to pieces. She was dead, I had no doubt in that.

At first I couldn't see my daughters. I found two of them alive within half an hour of the bomb going off, but it was two hours before I knew my youngest girl was alive.

That is two hours I will never forget.

The cries of people and smell of burning was something that will live with me the rest of my life.

Hospital

But at that stage I was only interested - as everyone else was - in trying to find my own family.

It was Mrs Slevins, who owns the chemist on the corner, and Father Aidan Mole who calmed me down on the street.

They took me to Charlie McAleer's pub, which is down Campsie [Road] and they gave me a glass of brandy.

When I came out of the pub some gentleman - I don't know who he was - shouted from the far side of the street, "Your little girl's in hospital."

That was the first I knew she was alive.

Mental scars

I went up [to the hospital] where she was in ward two. They were waiting to transfer her to Altnagelvin Hospital by helicopter.

The whole side of her face was blown in - she was very badly injured and very lucky to be alive.

It's been very hard for my other two girls who were in the town as well.

They weren't physically scarred, but they were mentally scarred. My son wasn't in Omagh at all, but it affected him in a bad way too.

The people who planted the bomb don't know the damage they have caused

But these last couple of years they have done exceptionally well. I'm very proud of them.

The people who planted the bomb don't know the damage they have caused - and not just on the street. For years to come there will be people living with the scars of that unfortunate day.

Anybody who was in the street that day cannot forget the scenes, the smell and the crying of pain.

I couldn't care less about Omagh. All I'm interested in is my own family and what we have been through these last five years - and what we're still going through.

Omagh will never be the same - not for the next 100 years

The town has been rebuilt again, there's no doubt in that - big fancy new buildings. But the heart has gone out of it.

And it will always be remembered for what happened on 15 August 1998.

It doesn't matter how well you dress up Market Street, how nice the buildings you have in it, people like me can't walk down that street, because we know exactly what happened on that day.

Omagh will never be the same - not for the next 100 years.

'Forgotten victims'

There have been a lot of tragedies over the last 30 years in the north of Ireland.

We thought - hoped - 15 August would be the last. A lot of people have still died in the north of Ireland and nobody seems to care.

All we hear about over here is the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

We are the forgotten victims and until such time the powers-that-be sit down and recognise the victims, we are moving nowhere and the tragedy will be for nothing.

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Casualties being rescued immediately after the blast
Kevin Skelton says he cannot forget the scenes following the blast


Damage to shops after the bomb
Twenty-nine people died in the Omagh bomb
Girls read floral tributes to the victims
The blast's victims went far beyond those on Market Street that afternoon
Witness Stories


 
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