|One week after the Omagh Massacre was designated a day of reflection.
Vigils were held all around Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, but by far the
largest was held in Omagh itself. Between 40,000 and 60,000 people filled High Street, the
open part of Market Street, Bridge Street, Scarffe's Entry, Foundry Lane Car Park and
Drumragh Car Park to hear the service which took place on the steps of the Courthouse.
Ironically, it was the courthouse which was the target, according to the bombers. For a
town of 25,000 such a massive crowd was at once terrifying and comforting.
The service began at 2:45pm with a welcome in English, spoken by Catholic Father Kevin Mullan. "It is Saturday once more". A welcome was then read in Irish by Presbyterian Rev Robert Herrin, and in Spanish by Army chaplain Father Francis Barber. Dr Brendan McCarthy, the minister for religion, then read a short statement. Then the crowds joined in singing "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Several members of the bereaved families broke down at various points in the service.
Prayers were then led by Dr Dominic Pinto, of Tyrone County Hospital and David Boton, a Methodist local preacher. Dr Peter Deveney then said a prayer in Irish. Next local singer Juliet Turner sang a moving solo of "Broken Things", a song about the slow process of repairing broken hearts. When she was finished, the assembled multitude broke into spontaneous applause. Then, Methodist Rev Peter Good read Isaiah 40, v28-31, which tells how God can help to repair hurt and bereavement like nobody else can:
Then prayers were led by Roisin Kelly, a local businnesswoman, Mable Kennedy (manager of Oxfam, which lost 2 members of staff), Fr Francis Barber and Rev Robert Herrin. There was also a prayer in Spanish. These prayers, unfortunately, were cut short due to the looming time of 15:10. The names of the 28 deceased were read out by John McKinney, the Omagh emergency coordinator. (This took place before the 29 victim, Sean McGrath, died.)
At this point the Courthouse clock hit 15:10, the exact time that the bomb had exploded one week earlier. The tens of thousands of assembled people, many of whom had been waiting for hours, partook of a minute's silence. Once over, the crowd joined in saying the Lord's prayer.
Then, 8 baskets of flowers were picked up from the front of the crowd, and carried away to be brought to the hospitals. This was to symbolise the crowd's remembrance of the injured, as well as the dead. Finally two children, one a Catholic and one a Protestant, to symbolise the united community, gave a prayer of hope. As this ended, the crowd joined in giving each other the Sign of Peace. (Shaking hands with strangers and saying "The peace of the Lord be with you".) With that, the act of reflection ended.
Many prominent people attended the meeting. Among them were UUP leader and First Minister David Trimble, SDLP leader John Hume, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon, Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, former Irish Taoiseach John Bruton, Irish President Mary McAleese, UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, the Duke of Abercorn, Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness, NIO Minister Paul Murphy and representatives of all the main churches. Notable by his absence was UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair who was on holiday in France. His staff said that Mr Blair felt that his high-security presence would have been a hindrance to the occasion.
Vigils also occurred in Belfast, Dublin, Dundalk and in almost every provincial town in Northern Ireland.
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