Two mothers, Spanish and Irish, share their suffering


A mother from Omagh and a mother from Madrid held hands in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast yesterday and told of their devastation at learning that their daughters had been injured in the Omagh bombing.

The two women, Mrs Helguero Peuch and Mrs Patricia Keys, met under horrific circumstances, but no words were needed. Mrs Keyes understood the pain and anguish of Mrs Helguero when she arrived at the hospital yesterday, having flown in from Madrid.

Ms Donna Marie Keys, who is in her 20s, and Beatrez Peuch, aged 11, are in the intensive care unit of the hospital. They were transferred from Omagh on Saturday night. Donna Marie is suffering blast injuries and Beatrez is in a critical condition, with head injuries.

Holding each others' hands, both mothers bravely addressed a press conference. Mrs Helguero said that despite being upset at the injuries of her daughter, she was now looking to the future and trying to deal with it as best she could. "There is good and evil everywhere. We have to try and squeeze out the bad things. This has happened and we have to cope with it and get along with it the best we can."

Her daughter was on holiday in Buncrana, Co Donegal, as part of a Spanish exchange trip from Madrid. Mrs Helguero said her experience would not put her off visiting Ireland, North or South, in future. "It could have happened in Spain, Algeria, the States, anywhere. We have now got to try and build on the good and not just look always at the bad parts," she said.

Mrs Keys, who was accompanied by her husband, Malachy, said her family remained "100 per cent behind the peace process". It was the only way forward for Northern Ireland, she said. "Just because our daughter is in intensive care doesn't mean we don't still believe in it. We met Tony Blair last night and we encouraged him to go with it."

Her husband said his family went "through hell" in the aftermath of the explosion but had been helped by all the actions of the medical staff in Tyrone County Hospital and the Royal Victoria Hospital in looking after Donna Marie. He paid tribute to the medical staff at both hospitals, and said his daughter was only alive because of the "good treatment" she received in Omagh before being transferred to Belfast.

He urged the British Prime Minister, Mr Blair, to continue with the peace process. Mr Keys said the family celebrated when a "new opportunity" was created in May by the Belfast Agreement. "We praised Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern having the courage to take the decision required to get the peace agreement. We celebrated in our own house when it happened, our family were so excited. This was a whole new start after 30 years of trouble."

Mr Keys strongly criticised the people who orchestrated the explosion, whom he described as "godfathers", for sending a "halfwit" to plant the bomb.

"I am not well educated in politics but I know there is no politics in the people who bombed Omagh. My perception of it is that the godfathers set this up and sent some halfwit to try to put a bomb into Omagh, who was such a coward that he just dropped it off in the first available car-park space he could get."

He said he shuddered to think that the bombers "were so devious that they set off to blow innocent people apart", and urged them to end their violence. "If these people have anything to offer they would have been involved in the peace agreements for Northern Ireland. I just wish to God that they have now woken up."

Mr Keys made a strong appeal for the families touched by the tragedy to be given some privacy, as they were "going through a very hard time. We have to try to keep our suffering private".

"Each and every one of the families are suffering with the pain that we have. But the tunnel we are going through has a light at the end of it and each day it gets a little bit brighter. Our hopes are growing."