Omagh Aftermath: A tiny white box that held the mortal remains of baby Breda

  • @AndrewBuncombe
THERE WAS no need for pall-bearers, no need for burly men to shoulder the weight of the coffin. Rather, Paul Devine simply lifted from the hearse the tiny, white box containing the body of his daughter Breda, placed it carefully under one arm and stepped into the stillness of the church.

Breda, aged just 20 months, was the second youngest of the Omagh victims and had been in town with her mother, Tracey, when the bomb exploded. With Tracey's brother, Garry McGillion, and his fiancee, Donna Marie Keys, they had been shopping in Omagh, 20 miles away, for the couple's wedding - planned for this coming Saturday - at which Breda was to have been the flower-girl. She needed new shoes.

Hundreds of mourners - among them the Social Democratic and Labour Party leader, John Hume, and Mary Wallace, representing the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern - packed into St Mary's Church in the tiny hamlet of Aughabrack, Co Tyrone, yesterday morning to watch Mr Devine carry out his final, sad duty for his daughter. His wife, Mr McGillion and Ms Keys were not among the mourners. All three are still in Belfast's Queen Victoria Hospital recovering from the injuries they received in last Saturday's blast. Mrs Devine, 29, is still critically ill with 60 per cent burns and is under heavy sedation. It is not known if she has yet been told about her daughter.

Yesterday's funeral procession had begun at the family home, two miles across the hillside, and the cortege twisted awkwardly down narrow lanes towards the church like a slow, black snake. When it reached the church, it passed a guard of honour made up of boys from the Clann na nGael under- 12s Gaelic football team.

The slight boys, all in their football jerseys, looked too young for such a rough game, never mind a funeral. But the community of Aughabrack and the surrounding hamlets is close-knit, although spread out across the Sperrin mountains, and the Devine family were at the centre of it. Young and old alike were at yesterday's funeral and, as Mr Devine was assistant coach of the local under-12s team, perhaps it was only natural the boys were there too, however incongruous it appeared.

The talk yesterday was of evil. The bomb in Omagh had been an "evil of the most horrifying and obscene nature", said Dr Edward Daly, the retired Bishop of Derry, who presided over the funeral mass. "The unspeakable deeds of those cruel murderers has caused an avalanche of tears and grief ... It was an attack on a family and everything we hold dear," he said. "We have had enough of conflict. Two generations have known nothing else."

Breda was the youngest of Mr Devine's four children. She had been born prematurely and the first few months of her short life had been a desperate struggle. Yesterday, there were thanks for the time she had had. And, as the rain fell on a dark, damp day of high summer, there were prayers, too, for the killers. "For Breda, her short life is over through this cruel action of a stranger," said the parish priest, Father George Doherty. "May God forgive him for his terrible sin and convert him from killing to loving."