Low-key memorial to the dead of Omagh

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The Independent Online

The people of Omagh sadly and quietly remembered their dead yesterday, gathering in the town centre for a low-key service in memory of the 29 killed by a bomb there exactly two years ago.

The people of Omagh sadly and quietly remembered their dead yesterday, gathering in the town centre for a low-key service in memory of the 29 killed by a bomb there exactly two years ago.

The County Tyrone town came to a standstill as church bells tolled and then stilled for a minute's silence at 3.09 pm, when a carbomb planted by the so-called Real IRA exploded in a street crowded with shoppers.

The service was attended not just by locals but also by relatives of the dead who came from further afield, from other parts of Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic and from Spain.

Relatives of the victims are bracing themselves for next month's opening of the inquests into the 29 deaths, which may produce unwelcome details of the circumstances.

The Real IRA is still active. Last week 500lb of explosives, apparently planned for use in an attack in the city of Londonderry, were recovered by the security forces.

Many relatives are upset by the fact that, despite the introduction of strong new laws in both parts of Ireland in the wake of the Omagh bomb, no one has been convicted of an offence in relation to it. Only one man has been charged in the Republic. The RUC is carrying out a review of the huge investigation into the bombing, and has not ruled out the bringing of charges.

In a joint statement Tony Blair and the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, left open the possibility of prosecutions, declaring: "Despite intensive investigation on both sides of the border that has been a model of co-operation between the RUC and the Gardai, it remains a matter of regret that there have not yet been more charges.

"Justice demands that all those responsible for the horror that was Omagh are brought before the courts and to that end we call on anyone with fresh information about the atrocity to come forward."

The father of a schoolboy killed in the bombing said he was saddened that the Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, had refused to appeal for help in tracing those responsible. Victor Barker, whose son James killed, said relatives of the dead believed there were people in the republican community who could help convict the bombers. "It's sad that the reaction of Mr Adams, when asked to make an appeal himself, was that he had no faith in the British system of justice in Northern Ireland and in particular in the RUC."

Kevin Skelton, whose wife of 20 years, Philomena, died in the atrocity and whose daughters, Paula, Tracey and Shauna were injured, believes the service said: "I think there is a sense in Omagh that it is time for the town to move on and for people to get on with their lives. However, with the inquest only around the corner, the next few weeks are not going to be easy. People are going to learn a lot more about the circumstances of their loved ones' deaths."

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