Bomb victim's mum in brave return to Omagh

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Bomb victim's mum in brave return to Omagh thumbnailDonna-Maria Barker

THE mother of a 12-year-old Omagh Bomb victim who returned to the town for the first time in nearly two decades spoke of her heartbreak at visiting the scene, but added that she was comforted by the 'warmth' of the people she met.

Donna-Maria Barker, as well as her son, James, moved to Buncrana from England and had only been living in the area for 11 months when James was killed on that fateful Saturday in August 1998.

He had been enjoying a day in the town having made a trip to the area to experience the Ulster American Folk with a group of Spanish teachers and children when the bomb went off.

Shortly after the atrocity, his mother, Donna-Maria, originally from Londonderry, returned to Surrey and had never since returned until Saturday.

Donna-Maria was kindly invited by Kenny Donaldson, director of victims group South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), for a memorial service in Fivemiletown Methodist Church, held to honour those who lost their lives in the Troubles. A quilt was unveiled with the names of 62 children and adults, including Donna-Maria's son, James.

It was Donna-Maria's wish to return to Omagh as part of her trip, to visit the town where such a tragic event changed her life forever. She made a highly-emotional visit to the Memorial Gardens where her son's name is inscribed on a wall and was touched to see others observing the area.

I was picked up at the airport by Kenny Donaldson on Saturday morning, and we headed straight down to Omagh, explained Donna-Maria.

On arrival, what caught me most was that people were just noirmally going about their daily business. That was quite strange, but then I am looking in the past, I hadn't been back there for so long.

Looking at the names at the memorial garden, and touching James's, I thought it was quite desolate. I was getting quite upset, but I turned around and there were three ladies also looking at the names. I felt a little bit better knowing that people do come down and look around.

The locals are such warm people, I was quite surprised seeing that I have been away for such a long time. I was quite upset at one stage and leaning against my son, and four different people came over to shake my hand and tell me 'I was never forgotten' that was lovely, it was so nice to hear.

In a way, yes I am glad I returned, but in another way, it was heartbreaking.

Donna-Maria was joined by her son, Oliver-Tristan - who was only four-years-old - when his brother James was killed.

He was very interested, and he took everything in, continued Donna-Maria. He kept very quiet, he was supporting me.

Donna-Maria and her son also paid an emotional visit to their former home in Buncrana, Co Donegal, where they had been living only for 11 months when James was killed.

We also visited the beach where Oliver-Tristan used to walk with his brother. Little things were coming back to Oliver-Tristan.

Reflecting on the Service of Remembrance held in Fivemiletown Methodist Church on Sunday, Donna-Maria said it was an amazing day .

There were soldiers, police, children, a whole different range of people, remembered. It puts it into prospective just how many people were killed in the Troubles.

Donna-Maria was comforted by the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, at different stages during the day. We got talking, I think she is a very down to earth lady. A really lovely, lovely person. She had time for everyone.

After an incredibly moving few days, Donna-Maria is now back in England, but she admits she will find it difficult to get her mind off a truly poignant weekend in Northern Ireland.

It was so draining, I never thought it would be. I am just so tired now. But I did this for James. This trip will always be on my mind, she concluded.


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