‘Massive step forward on road to justice’
The sister of Omagh bomb victim Oran Doherty says her family is happy that a public inquiry into the atrocity will finally be held, describing it as a “massive step forward on the road to justice”.
Lisa Dillon, who lost her eight-year-old brother Oran in the August 15, 1998 explosion, said how the families had almost given up hope of ever getting to the bottom of what happened that day.
Sean McLaughlin (12) and James Barker (12) from Buncrana, Fernando Blasco Baselga (12) and Rocio Abad Ramos (24), two young Spaniards on an exchange trip to Buncrana, also died.
Northern Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris told the House of Commons last Thursday that he was establishing an independent statutory inquiry to investigate if the atrocity could have been prevented.
Lisa hopes the inquiry will help bring some “closure” for the families.
“We are so happy to learn of the public inquiry being passed, something we never thought we would ever see to be honest; so this is really a massive step forward on the road to justice.”
“Let’s hope it can bring some sort of closure for the families, as we deserve this so much,” she said.
Confirmation of the inquiry comes after Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aidan in the blast, took legal action more than a decade ago.
Lisa has praised the relentless effort of Mr Gallagher, who is due to come to Buncrana this evening to meet the local families at the Inishowen Gateway Hotel.
“Michael Gallagher and his daughter Cat have worked endlessly for this day and it’s an absolute credit to them people for never ever giving up. They will keep pushing on and only for them I don’t think this would ever have happened.”
“We can’t thank them enough for all the support and fight they have given in this.”
For Lisa, it’s now important that the Irish government gives its 100 per cent backing to the process, particularly given that there was a major cross-border element to the atrocity, with the bomb having been transported from the Republic.
The families also strongly suspect that the Irish government, as well as the British authorities, had prior knowledge that an attack could take place – and didn’t do enough to prevent it.
“We just hope that the Irish government follows suit now and that the families and the victims get the justice we deserve,” Lisa said.
The Real IRA bomb, which detonated on a crowded street at 3.10pm on a Saturday afternoon, would become the single most deadly attack in the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, killing 29 innocent people.
Lisa says the fact that no one has ever been held criminally liable for the attack has exacerbated the families’ grief and suffering.
“When you have nobody brought to justice and knowing that the Omagh bomb could have been stopped from ever happening, it’s very difficult to move on.”
“It’s hard to try to move forward with what happened that day almost 25 years ago, as there is always something popping up. It’s just tough for the families to be able to say we need to let go and just move on.”
‘Tough for families’
She said the inquiry will be tough for the families but they are determined to get to the truth of what happened on August 15, 1998.
“This unfortunately will be tough for the families going forward, as it’s going to bring a lot of things to the surface that we may not like to hear.”
It is understood that the inquiry will open later this year.
Meanwhile speaking at the weekend, Tánaiste Micheal Martin said further discussion with the UK is required before then.
“The issue for us is, full cooperation with the UK inquiry or do we have a parallel inquiry?”
“These are issues our systems have to work through. There are legal complexities but I think we can resolve them. We already have dealt with that in terms of legislation passed which facilitates the transfer of documentation to inquiries in the North and vice versa.”