19 bodies returned to their families

 

The bodies of 19 of the victims of the Omagh bombing were removed from the town's Lisanelly army barracks last night, as communities throughout Northern Ireland, Donegal and Spain prepared to bury their dead.

The bodies included those of Mrs Avril Monaghan, who was eight months pregnant with twins, and her 18-month-old baby daughter, Maura. They are to be buried this morning after a funeral Mass in St Mac Cartan's church, near Clogher.

Mrs Monaghan's mother, Mrs Mary Grimes, will be buried tomorrow.

The bodies removed also included those of Ms Rocia Abad Ramos (29), an exchange programme leader from Madrid, and a Spanish student, Fernando Brasco Bacelga (11). They were both due to be flown home from Belfast last night.

The RUC confirmed last night that 19 bodies had been released for removal. The remainder will not be released by the coroner until today at the earliest.

The Omagh bomb was not just an attack on the victims, but on all people who believe in democracy, the Deputy Prime Minister of Spain said yesterday. Mr Francisco Alverez Coscas went to the scene of the explosion and visited the injured yesterday.

"The tragedy was not only for the Spanish families, but for all people who believed in democracy," he said.

"The only reply is solidarity among the people of Europe against terrorists." He praised the co-operation from all the Northern Ireland authorities in arranging to have the bodies of the two Spanish victims sent home with their families.

The First Minister, Mr David Trimble, said the bomb was a challenge to people in the Republic who may be harbouring the bombers. Outside Tyrone County Hospital before visiting the injured, he said: "Any measures the security forces require from our government or the Irish Government will be carried through. I hope there will be measures adopted as a result of this and I hope also they will be actively supported by all responsible sections of the community.

"It's a challenge not just for everybody here that's in Northern Ireland. It's a challenge also for the community in the Republic of Ireland where we believe those with responsibility have taken refuge." Asked if these measures included internment, Mr Trimble said: "I don't think it's helpful to discuss the details of that."

A Stormont junior Minister, Mr John McFall, said the determination among relatives and victims he visited with the British Prime Minister the previous evening had been to continue with the peace process.

He said he had been "extremely distressed" by the bomb. It was his first weekend on duty as junior Minister. "I got up this morning and all the papers were on my doorstep. When I saw the faces of the kids, that just triggered new emotion."

He had visited the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on Sunday night with Mr Blair, he said. "The parents and families of the injured said very clearly there had to be a better future."

Speaking to women who gathered at the flowers outside the shop where three staff members had died, he said the Spanish victims and their families had been "very much aware of the good people in Ireland".

Asked about reaction in Britain, he said he felt people must be asking themselves "is this it all over again?" But it was important to communicate that the bombers were "a small unrepresentative group of individuals".

The women said they felt the community in Omagh would be "much stronger behind the peace process after this". One woman said: "I don't think there are any words left to say. We all vented our anger and our tears on Saturday and Sunday."

Omagh District Council passed a unanimous motion condemning the attack and announced it was opening books of condolences in all public buildings in the town and surrounding villages. The council said it would also send representatives to funerals in Buncrana, Co Donegal, and in Spain.

Volunteers at the Oxfam charity shop in Omagh yesterday paid tribute to two teenagers who died in the bombing. Samantha McFarland (17) and her best friend, Lorraine Wilson (15), gave up their Saturdays to help out in the shop.

Dr Brian Scott, a director of Oxfam in Northern Ireland, said everyone who worked with the two girls was deeply shocked. Another volunteer at the shop had also suffered tragedy in losing her brother and nephew as a result of the bomb.

Ms Mabel Kennedy, a volunteer shop manager for Oxfam in Omagh, said: "The two girls were generous and helpful. Their thoughts were for others as they gave generously of their time during their summer vacation."

The shop was not damaged in the blast. It was in the area that was cleared after the bomb warning and the teenagers had been moved to the area where the blast occurred.

Like many students trying to earn some money during the summer break, Julia Hughes (21) had returned home to Omagh to work in the Image Xpress photo shop on Market Street. The shop caught the full force of the bomb and the accountancy student died instantly.

Ms Christine Helier, Julia's student adviser at Dundee University, described her as a model student. "She was a really, really nice girl, a conscientious student, popular and friendly."

She had got to know Julia during her three years at Dundee during long chats about her future and what job she would find after leaving university.

"I saw her regularly. If she had a problem she would come and talk to me. She was just an ideal student who worked hard when she had to and played hard as well. It always happens to the nice ones. I've done a bit of crying myself this morning," she added.