Monday, 4 April 2011

Omagh a Tale of Two Bombings

Inspired by Michael's post about the last time Omagh made all the wrong headlines I thought I'd look at what my memories where of that day back then and the differences with now.

It was a glorious afternoon on 15 August 1998. I was wearing just by polo shirt as I was playing on the NICS bowling green, on the Stormont Estate, in a Junior Irish Cup Semi-Final match. That afternoon I first suspected something was wrong by an increase in traffic heading into the estate and up towards the Castle and the Office of the Secretary of State.

Later on near the end of the match some of the spectators were huddled inside the club house, they then told us at the end that something had happened in Omagh, so the celebrations of reaching my first Irish Cup Final were somewhat muted as we headed back to Bangor to catch up on the news.

Saturday the 2 April 2011 was a mixed day. At time the sun was bursting out of the heavens at others it was overcast and even raining. The news this time, as my friend Phil wrote, was spreading via Twitter. I'd read the first reports on the train on my way back to Bangor after being part of the banner drop for the Yes! to Fairer Votes.

But this time within hours there was grass roots condemnation appearing from all sides (well almost) across Twitter, the hashtag #NotinMyName was trending late on Saturday. We didn't have Twitter back in 1998, people found out in their own time through car radios, portables at football games, or when they got back in after the afternoon shopping or gardening. Now many of us found out as we were going about what we were doing and we able to comment our own feelings to a few or many. We could also follow the views of others through the #Omagh #NotinMyName #PSNI etc hashtags.

As Phil said in his Tweet we could also see the disgusting side of a very small number of individuals who felt that the loss of a 25 year old's life at the start of a career in a role he was looking forward to was right. Thankfully that is only a small handful, overwhelmingly people are outraged at what has happened and never want to revisit those dark days again.

Looking around us today, life is going on in Northern Ireland. Some of the political parties postponed press conferences until tomorrow, Sinn Féin pushed theirs back so as not to clash with the FM and dFM statement. there are a couple of security alerts and suspect devices, so we are being vigilant once again (but then those of us brought up in the troubles have never really ceased to be). But overwhelmingly the people here want peace, we've tasted it and want it to continue. "Not in my name" is the cry of many this weekend and going forward will remain the message to those who want to drag us back into a era of fear and uncertainty.

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