TWENTY years after the Omagh bombing, the town’s pain is still palpable as it grieves for the 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, who were indiscriminately killed when a Real IRA car bomb exploded in the town centre.
The biggest single atrocity in the long, and bloody, history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, this was an evil attempt by terrorists to derail the Good Friday Agreement and even the Republican leadership was left revulsed by the slaughter of innocent shoppers in such numbers.
And while there’s still anguish that the perpetrators have not been brought to justice for the carnage that they inflicted on August 15, 1998, the condemnation by all communities marked a watershed and, ultimately, led to a historic power-sharing agreement at Stormont between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein.
Implacable opponents for so long when violence in Northern Ireland dominated the daily headlines, the unlikely political alliance between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness was, in many respects, the lasting legacy of Omagh as it showed that the terrorists could not, and would not, win.
The irony now is that Stormont remains in abeyance because the current DUP and Sinn Fein leaders have seemingly irrevocable views over a political scandal rather than Northern Ireland’s still sensitive security needs.
As the whole country remembers the victims of Omagh, it can only be hoped that the tributes and memorial events do finally stir political leaders into restoring power-sharing before the peace process is put at unnecessary risk.