Several hundred people attended a cross-community, open-air service in Buncrana on Wednesday evening to mark the 20th anniversary of the Omagh bombing in which three local boys died, along with two young Spaniards who had been staying in the Donegal seaside town.
The five had been on a day trip to the Ulster American Folk Park and then Omagh when they were caught in the blast after a Real IRA car bomb exploded in Market Street on August 15th 1998. 29 men, women and children, and two unborn babies, lost their lives in the explosion – the highest loss of life in a single incident in the Troubles.
Last night’s service was held in Buncrana’s Knockalla Drive estate, where 12 year old Shaun McLaughlin had lived just a few doors away from 8 year old Oran Doherty, and where a stone-clad plinth now commemorates the two boys.
The steeply-sloping street was packed as other victims of the bombing were remembered, too, among them 12 year old James Barker, whose family had moved to Buncrana; 12 year old Fernando Blasco Baselga, from Madrid, who had been on an exchange programme; and 24 year old Rocio Abad Ramos, one of the Spanish group leaders.
Last night’s service was led by the Parish Priest of Buncrana, Fr Francis Bradley; the Priest-in-Charge of Fahan Upper & Fahan Lower Church of Ireland, Rev Judi McGaffin; and Buncrana priest, Fr John Walsh. Also taking part were Drumquin Parish Priest, Fr Kevin Mullan – who had participated in the commemorative service in Omagh earlier the same afternoon – and Mr Dominic Pinto, who had been one of the consultant surgeons who treated casualties on the day of the atrocity.
As darkness fell on last night’s service, candles were lit for the victims of the bombing. Among the prayers said was one in Spanish recited by Paula Mahon, a Spanish woman who had helped organise the exchange programme and who now lives in Buncrana. And the victims of this week's bridge-collapse in Genoa were also remembered.
The large gathering included two men who had lost close relatives in the Omagh bombing: Michael Gallagher (whose son Aidan was killed), and Stanley McComb (who lost his wife Ann), had travelled from Tyrone to show solidarity with the Buncrana families.