An IRA bomb explodes in Omagh, Co Tyrone killing 29 people. As a result of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the people of Northern Ireland thought they had seen the end of violence. However, a tiny breakaway group of IRA dissidents who called themselves The Real IRA thought otherwise and continued the campaign to rid Northern Ireland of “British occupation.” The events of Omagh were a microcosm of how both Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries operated over the previous thirty years. A tiny minority intent on destruction provided poor telephoned bomb warnings to the authorities. In the confusion and it appears general laxness of residents and police authorities, the victims were unknowingly shepherded close to the car that contained 500 lbs of explosives. The victims never had a chance.
It has been alleged that the British, Irish and American intelligence agencies had information which could have prevented the bombing; most of which came from double agents inside the Real IRA. This information was not given to the local police; the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). In 2008 it was revealed that British intelligence agency GCHQ was monitoring conversations between the bombers as the bomb was being driven into Omagh.
A 2001 report by the Police Ombudsman said that the RUC’s Special Branch failed to act on prior warnings and slammed the RUC’s investigation of the bombing. The RUC has obtained circumstantial and coincidental evidence against some suspects, but it has not come up with anything to convict anyone of the bombing. Colm Murphy was tried, convicted, and then released after it was revealed that the Gardaí forged interview notes used in the case. Murphy’s nephew Sean Hoey was also tried and found not guilty. In June 2009, the victims’ families won a GB£1.6 million civil action against four defendants. In April 2014, Seamus Daly was charged with the murders of those killed.
Photo collage: Left photo: Omagh Memorial at the bomb site, Top right photo: The red Vauxhall Cavalier containing the bomb; this photograph was taken shortly before the explosion; the camera was found afterwards in the rubble (the Spanish man and child seen in the photo both survived), Bottom right photo: Aftermath