Royal visit to North includes meeting with families of Omagh victims

Prince Charles opens new hospital and meets staff, ‘It’s good for the hospital,’ says nurse

The father of a man killed in the Omagh bombing has said a royal visit to the Co Tyrone town was "recognition" of the fact that the victims and survivors of the atrocity have not been forgotten.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall on Wednesday held a private meeting with families of those murdered in the August 1998 blast carried out by the Real IRA.

Some 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, lost their lives in the incident and more than 220 people were injured.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aidan was killed in the bombing, said it was "important that we are not forgotten about". He described the meeting with the British royals as "uplifting" and said he was encouraged "that people in high places are still thinking about us 20 years after the event".

Mr Gallagher said the Prince had told him his visit two decades ago in the aftermath of the bomb had made “an impression” on him.

Earlier in the day, the Prince and the Duchess laid a wreath at the Omagh memorial garden and visited Owenkillew Community Centre in Gortin.

The Duchess had been at an engagement in London so the Prince had opened the new Omagh hospital on his own.

New hospital

After being greeted by Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Órfhlaith Begley and other dignitaries on Wednesday morning the Prince took a tour of the new facility, which replaced Tyrone County Hospital last year.

He spoke with current staff members and also former doctors and nurses he had met when he visited the former hospital in 1998.

Among them was retired surgeon Dominic Pinto, who had cared for those injured in the bomb blast.

“He [Prince Charles] came to the hospital when the Omagh bomb went off,” he said. “He was very sympathetic and very nice to everybody.”

Dr Pinto said he was thrilled the prince had made a return visit to Omagh and that he was pleased to see the new hospital, which he described as “a prototype others should think about when designing”, had officially opened.

Children's nurse Liz Bailiey said having Prince Charles in the hospital was "amazing".

“It’s good for the hospital,” she said. “It’s amazing to be recognised by someone who is such an iconic figure. Amazing for the country.”

On Thursday, the Prince and the Duchess will cross the Border for a series of engagements in Cork which includes a visit to University College Cork and the Maritime College of Ireland.

The Duchess will also visit a domestic violence refuge and the Irish National Guide Dogs training centre.

On Friday, the royals will travel to Co Kerry to visit Derrynane House and attend a garden party at Killarney House, where they will be presented with the Order of Innisfallen. The honour recognises outstanding contribution to the local economy by people from outside Kerry.