Northern Ireland

Day four: visiting Omagh and Derry



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“More integration is important because it shows people that we aren’t all that different”


While listening to a member of the Omagh Support and Self Help Group talk about the Omagh bombing that killed 31 people and injured 250 others, he discussed how deeply the bombing impacted a wide range of people. It had been a nice, sunny day when the bomb went off from inside a parked car and caused vast devastation. This attack occurred after the Good Friday agreement was signed, yet was the most harmful attack in the 30 years of the Troubles. After the attack took place, the Omagh Support and Self Help Group began working towards supporting community members through the trauma they were experiencing. Now, 20 years later, the group is working on trying to gain permission for a public inquiry and discussed wanting to reach an understanding of what occurred. Throughout the presentation, the sad fact that innocent people were killed and injured during this attack was connected to the problem with extremist views leading to violence. Therefore, the group does a lot of work towards integration of people of different viewpoints in order to demonstrate to others that while we all have different views, violence is not the answer. Ultimately, “a decent person is a decent person”.


The daily details:


Before visiting the Omagh Support and Self Help Group, we visited the Memorial Gardens. While there, we learned about the 31 people who were killed and how the Omagh bombing came just four short weeks after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The memorial had experienced controversy during the tenth year anniversary when two separate services were held. The first was held by the city and the council. They held the service in the parking lot across from the memorial and then walked over to the memorial for its official opening. Later on Sunday, (the day the service is held annually), the support group held their serve as the first service to be performed inside the gardens. The support group leader spoke of how tons of people came to the service and it was a warm sunny day. He continued to speak about how this was a sign that unity should be a goal between the two sides and how shared spaces are the first step of unity. The land the Memorial Garden is on is owned by community members. He says this is in order to keep the memorial owned by the people. By continuing to develop shared spaces, people will have the opportunity to integrate and interact in order to begin moving towards better days.


One challenge the Omagh Support and Self Help Group faces is the misconception that when the pursuing a truth inquire they are acting in an anti-police way. One of the group members discussed his deep respect for police and all they do but feels that action needs to be taken when “bad policing” occurs and causes harms to many people’s lives. He then went on to discuss how issues like not picking up on bomb warning calls and other warning signs was an issue in the Omagh bombing. He continued to speak on how “ultimately the terrorists are responsible” but it is important for the police to keep a sharp eye out for warning signs that can be acted upon in order to save lives. He then told the story of how a public inquiry was done in order to investigate the issues revolving around the sinking of the Titanic. It helped bring about tighter safety measures for sea travel. In the end, he said, public inquiries help give people information onto why an issue went wrong, what was done correctly, and how to move forward so that a similar issue isn’t repeated. This misconception of inquiries being anti-police makes public inquires harder to complete because they are perceived to be more politically driven. However, he talked about how his group still works toward asking for an inquiry and hopes that if given the opportunity to engage in one, it can produce results that could help people in Northern Ireland.


The Omagh Support and Self Help Group is also involved with the radicalization awareness network (RAN) in order to work towards decreasing terrorist violence. While discussing RAN we watched a video on what they do in order to help reduce prejudicial hate. The organization has nine branches and works towards integrating different kinds of people into each other’s lives in order to decrease prejudicial hatred and instead show how similar people are to one another. I thought the RAN group was inspiring in the way that it worked to not eliminate people’s views, but expose diversity, teach acceptance, and decrease hateful violence. This connection between the Omagh Support and Self Help Group and RAN was an interesting way of connecting people of different background in order to move towards a better future. As they work towards building deeper understanding among those with vastly different backgrounds (whether it be Nationalist, Loyalist, or other divided groups around the world) they are helping bring more people towards a world where differences aren’t perceived as monstrous, but instead merely as different viewpoints. This is their way of working towards justice after the situation of the Omagh bombing.


Overall, today I learned a lot about how people are working towards unity, and how important it is to not brush over the fine details of these complicated issues. The deeper people work to fix true issues and understand the reasoning for other views the quicker people can build tolerance and acceptance.

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