Early victory for relatives


The families of the victims of Omagh put a human face on a complicated legal inquiry which began in the town's courthouse yesterday morning.

Her soft voice wavering, Ms Mandy Hawkes told Belfast coroner Mr John Leckey why she believed it was important that all written and photographic evidence was given to the families to examine before the inquest began.

Ms Hawkes's mother, Olive (60), was one of the 29 people who died in the bombing and she had questions to ask those giving evidence.

So too had Mr Mark Breslin, whose wife, Geraldine (43), lost her life. The relatives' spokesman, Mr Michael Gallagher, believed the information was "a right, not a privilege".

Identical expectations filled the pale faces of relatives in Court No 1 and by early afternoon the coroner had made the unprecedented decision to grant their request. It would be an exceptional inquest, said one legal representative.

A request by Mr Gallagher to have a member of the 32-County Sovereignty Movement called as a witness was just one indication of how exceptional events over coming weeks might prove.

As the evidence decision filtered down to those standing in sunshine outside the courthouse, one man, Bill, said it was "very good news".

"They have been through so much, those people, they deserve to know everything. But they won't be able to move on until they know that those who were responsible have been caught," he said.

Another local man, Mr Pat Vaughan, said the town had recovered somewhat but it was difficult as there were constant reminders of the tragedy in the media. "But this decision is good for the families, they are entitled to know what happened," he said.

Omagh town centre bustled with shoppers and schoolchildren yesterday afternoon. Builders continued work on the site of the explosion while flowers bloomed from hanging baskets. Bouquets were placed in the tiny memorial garden around the corner on Drumragh Avenue.