Two communities mourn their dead

 

They came from all classes, creeds and age groups. Babies, elderly women, students, mothers and schoolgirls. Some were well-off, others lived on the poverty line.

The youngest victim was 18 months, the oldest 65 years. Of the 28 killed, most were from Co Tyrone, but there were three children from Buncrana, Co Donegal, and a schoolboy and his teacher from Spain.

This was not a tragedy which hurt one community or the other. Everyone was affected. Mary Grimes, a daily Massgoer, and Esther Gibson, a Free Presbyterian Sunday school teacher, were both killed. Brenda Logue lived for the GAA. Aidan Gallagher's uncle, a former UDR man, was killed by the IRA.

Some of the dead had voted for the Belfast Agreement, others against it. Ms Gibson was the niece of a leading local DUP politician and Fred White was an Ulster Unionist Party activist. Many were nationalists.

The Omagh bomb recognised no barriers.

Brenda Devine

Breda Devine was a fighter. The 20-monthold toddler had clung to life after being born three months prematurely. Her mother, Tracey (27), had taken her into the town on Saturday to shop for a wedding gift for her brother and his fiancee. Breda was killed in the blast while her mother was left fighting for her life after suffering 60 per cent burns.

The child's father, Paul, was left with the heart-breaking task of telling his three other children - Aaron (6), Niamh (3) and Shay (2) - that their baby sister had died and their mother was critically ill.

Julie Hughes

Julie Hughes (21) had come back to Omagh to see her parents during the summer holidays. She was a student at Dundee University and planned to return to Scotland next month. She decided to take a part-time holiday job and was working in Image Xpress, a photo shop in the High Street in Omagh, last Saturday.

Some time after the bomb warning, she was told to leave the shop. She ran into the full force of the blast.

Her parents, Helen and Alec, live on the outskirts of Omagh. They are said to be very distressed. A constant stream of Julie's friends have been arriving at the house.

Brenda Logue

Brenda Logue (17) wanted to know what was going on. She left her mother and grandmother in a shop to take a peek at the street outside on Saturday afternoon to see why people were running. She caught the full force of the bomb. Her mother and grandmother escaped with cuts and bruises.

Brenda was from Carrickmore from a family of five. She played in goal for a local Gaelic football team and was still at school. "I loved her to bits", said her father, Tommy. "She was a wonderful wee girl, so full of life."

James Barker

Donna Maria Barker said she never realised how green her son's eyes were until she saw him lying on a mortuary slab. "To see him lying there with half of his head gone and those beautiful green eyes looking out at me, as if he was waiting for me, was devastating", she said.

"I never realised how green his eyes were. That image will stay with me for the rest of my life."

Donna and her husband, Victor, an English-born lawyer, had moved their four children to Ireland from England last year "to give them a better quality of life".

James (12), who lived in Buncrana, Co Donegal, was on a visit to Omagh folk park with two friends, Oran Doherty and Sean McLaughlin, and a group of Spanish students on an exchange visit. He was an avid Chelsea supporter and was due to start secondary school in Belfast next month.

"We thought we were coming to Ireland to have a peaceful life. It has gone so very wrong", Donna said.

Oran Doherty

Oran Doherty (8), also from Buncrana, Co Donegal, had been looking forward to going to Omagh all week.

"He was so excited about the trip", said his sister, Liza. "He came into my room for sweets before he left on Saturday because he was a bad traveller.

"He took two sweets, and when I told him to take more he only took another two. Any other child would have taken a handful, but that was the kind of boy he was. So loving and gentle and very generous. He was just an angel and we will all miss him so much. We will never, ever get over this."

The Dohertys live at Knockalla Park, Buncrana.

Sean McLaughlin

The McLaughlins live just two doors away from the Dohertys. Sean (12) was an altar boy at the local church, St Michael's Oratory. Father Charles Keaney said: "He was a lovely wee fellow. The one memory I have of him is of his happy, smiling face."

Sean's uncle, Michael Doherty, said that the family could not understand why their precious child had to die in that way.

Fernando Blasco

Fernando Blasco (12) was one of a group of Spanish children on an exchange programme with a group of Donegal children. He was from Madrid. His parents travelled to Omagh to bring home his body.

The Spanish ambassador to Ireland accompanied the parents to the temporary morgue in the British army barracks in Omagh to formally identify their son.

Rocio Abad

It was Rocio Abad's fifth visit to Ireland. She loved the country. She was the leader of the exchange group and was helping to supervise the Spanish children on a day out as part of their language course. Ms Abad (24) was due to return to Spain shortly for her sister's wedding.

Philomena Skelton

Philomena Skelton only went into Omagh twice a year - to do her Christmas shopping and to buy her children uniforms for returning to school. She lived in Drumquin and rarely left the village.

"Mena was such a home bird", said her husband, Kevin. "She hardly ever went out. We did everything together, like the grocery shopping every evening."

Last Saturday, Philomena (39) was accompanied by Kevin and daughters Shauna (13), Tracey (15) and Paula (18). Her son, Ray (16), was on a fishing trip. She was caught in the explosion as her daughters tried on school uniforms. Kevin was in a neighbouring shop when the bomb exploded. "We were only three feet apart, with just a shop dividing us, yet she was killed and I came out of it with hardly a scratch", he said. "I find that very difficult to accept."

The couple met when Philomena was 15 and married four years later. They would have celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary at the end of this month. "She gave me 20 years of happiness and four wonderful kids", Kevin said.

Esther Gibson

Esther Gibson (36) had chosen her wedding ring. She met Kenneth Hawkes last March and it was love at first sight. They got engaged two months later, on Kenneth's birthday, and were due to be married on Esther's birthday next year.

But first Esther was to be chief bridesmaid at the wedding of her sister, Caroline, next month. "After that, we planned to concentrate on organising our own", said Kenneth, who could barely stop crying yesterday.

"We had our rings picked and we were waiting for planning permission to build a house. Esther was kind and loving - the most generous person I have ever known. She loved children. She couldn't wait to start a family. We wanted a boy and a girl."

Esther came from a big family. She was the eldest of 11 - five girls and six boys who grew up on a farm outside Beragh, Co Tyrone. She had worked in Desmonds clothing factory for 15 years and was a Sunday school teacher for the Rev Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church at Sixmilecross.

"She was a fine girl with a good future", Dr Paisley said. "This is terrible for the children and the congregation."

Her uncle is Oliver Gibson, who won an Assembly seat for the DUP in West Tyrone.

Kenneth found Esther's car in Dunnes' car park in Omagh last Saturday. Her shopping bags were still on the back seat, where she had left them.

Avril Monaghan

Avril Monaghan (30) was heavily pregnant with twins. She had four children under 7. She was in the town with her 18-month-old daughter, Maura, and her mother, Mary Grimes, to celebrate Mary's birthday.

Avril lived in Aughadarra, about 15 miles from Omagh. She worked as a secretary. Her husband, Michael, is said to be "shattered" by the death of his wife and daughter.

Maura Monaghan

Maura Monaghan was only 18 months old when she was killed with her mother and grandmother. She was the youngest victim of the Omagh bombing.

Mary Grimes

Mary Grimes (65) was a mother of 12. Born in Co Cork, she was a former maternity nurse. She died on her birthday.

Mary lived on a dairy farm in Beragh with her husband, Mick. He had been waiting with flowers to welcome her home when the terrible news began to filter through. The couple were very religious and attended Mass every day. Father Arthur McAnerney said he could not praise the family highly enough. "They are very good people, very courageous people. There are no histrionics", he said.

Geraldine Breslin

Geraldine Breslin was killed as she ran out of Watterson's clothes shop only to be hit by the full force of the blast. She worked in the store. Her husband, Mark, and son, Gareth (14), are being comforted by friends. Geraldine (35) was from Omagh. A local priest, Father John Forbes, said: "She was a beautiful woman who was the salt of the earth."

Anne McCombe

Anne McCombe (48) was Geraldine Breslin's best friend. They worked together in Watterson's and were on a tea break when the bomb exploded outside the shop. Anne was a Protestant, but their friendship bridged the sectarian divide. Anne was married and had two sons, Colan (18) and Clive (22).

"She was not just my wife, she was my best friend as well", said her husband, Stanley. "She was such a loving, caring person. She had not a bad word to say about anybody."

Anne loved going for long walks in the countryside and singing in the church choir. She had nursed her own parents, who both died within the past 12 months. She was a strong supporter of the peace process.

Veda Short

Veda Short (46) worked in the lingerie department at Watterson's. She and her husband, William, had one son, three daughters and a grandchild. She lived in Gortiaclare, south Armagh.

Aidan Gallagher

Aidan Gallagher (21) went into Watterson's to buy new boots and a pair of jeans. He had studied car bodywork at Portadown College and spent two years building up his own firm. He was crazy about cars, his friends said. He would normally have been working on a Saturday afternoon, but changed his plans and decided to go into the town with a friend instead. His friend was badly injured in the blast.

Aidan was the only son in the family. It is not the first time the Gallaghers have lost a loved one during the Troubles. Aidan's uncle, Hugh, a former part-time UDR soldier, was shot dead by the IRA while working as a taxidriver in Omagh 14 years ago.

Elizabeth Rush

Elizabeth Rush (57) lived for her small pine and canework shop nextdoor to the Cosy Corner pub in Omagh. She had a cafe upstairs, which was a popular meeting place in the town. Elizabeth was killed in her shop.

Jolene Marlow

Everybody said Jolene Marlow was a kind-hearted girl. Jolene (17) and her sister, Nicola (15), had taken their great-aunt, Bernie Shaw (75), into Omagh on a shopping trip. The family are from Newtownsaville. Jolene had three brothers.

Samantha McFarland

Samantha McFarland (17) was a student at Strabane College. She was killed with her best friend, Lorraine Wilson.

Lorraine Wilson

Lorraine Wilson (15), a schoolgirl, was working with Samantha in the charity shop run by Oxfam in Omagh. They left the building together during the bomb alert, but walked into the blast as they did so.

Gareth Conway

Gareth Conway (18), from Carrickmore, was about to enrol in an engineering course when he was killed. His father, Mickey, plays handball at All-Ireland level and he and his wife, Marie, have another son and two daughters.

Gareth recently left Omagh Technical College and had been offered a place at Magee College. His exam results were due out this week and he was in Omagh to buy a pair of contact lenses.

"I would say this has been the worst day of my life", said his local parish priest, Father Sean Hegarty.

Alan Radford

Alan Radford (16) would have received his GCSE results this week. His family were delighted that he had taken his exams. Alan was in town to help his mother with the shopping. His brother, Paul, went searching for him after the explosion, but could not find him. Alan's remains were not identified until Sunday.

Paul said it was cruel that his brother had been killed when he had never been involved in politics in any way.

Fred White

Fred White (60) had just returned home from a holiday abroad and had gone into the town centre to shop. He was an office-holder in the Omagh Ulster Unionist Association. It is thought that he died with his son, Brian (27).

Brian White

Aged 27, Brian died in the company of his father, Fred.

Brian McCrory

Aged 54, from Omagh.

Olive Hawkes

Aged 60, from Omagh.

Deborah Anne Cartwright

Aged 20, from Omagh.