Thoughts on peace in Northern Ireland

History may well come to tell us that Friday 10th April 1998 was an historic day in the history of the province of Northern Ireland, the day that was the beginning of the end of the violence of the last 30 years, but the Omagh Bombing hasn't exactly given me confidence in the Agreement. This bombing, carried out by the so-called "Real IRA" (they couldn't even come up with an original name) has been the worst in the history of the Northern Irish Troubles. I was working in Fermanagh on that terrible Saturday and heard about it on the radio on the way home - passing through Omagh. At that time, about 10 people were reported dead, by the time that we got home, the number of dead was up to 21 and but it wasn't until the next day that the final body count of 28 was revealed. 28 candles that have been extinguished; 28 lights that will never shine again, with a 29th person dying two weeks later from their injuries.
In my opinion, the most terrible thing in the atrocity was the murder of a woman pregnant with twins. Two unborn children, innocent in the ways of the world; two children who will never see the light of day; who will never feel the sun and wind on their faces; who will never experience love. Saturday 15th August 1998 was truly a black day in the history of our Province.

The feeling that I had when I first heard the news was a deep sorrow mixed with anger. In the hours following the bombing, I almost lost faith in human nature itself. It made me think what evil people that there have to be amongst us to carry out such an act. My horror deepened as it was revealed that the bombers had misled the police into moving the public from the Courthouse area into the town centre, where the bomb was. What sick minds could do such a thing?
They do say that it is an ill wind that blows no good but the good in this is buried very deep. It has been noted that Gerry Adams has utterly condemned the act - the first time that a Republican has condemned an act carried out by a Republican organisation in such terms. This could show just how isolated that these fringe organisations are. Although I am loath to say it, maybe an act like this was necessary to bring things to a head, maybe this will be the turning point that is recorded in history, not the actual Agreement itself. Only time will tell. On Saturday 22nd August 1998 - exactly one week after the Omagh bombing - the INLA also declared a ceasefire. In their declaration, they said that the decision had been made before the bombing and is a result of the overwhelming desire of the people of the island of Ireland for peace - as declared in the parallel referenda in May.

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