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Community outrage at bomb bid

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Community outrage at bomb bid thumbnailThe inside container of the litter bin in which a viable pipe bomb was detected in the early hours of Sunday morning and on which a controlled explosion was carried out by Army Technical Officers

OUTRAGE and revulsion best describe the two most common reactions to Sunday's failed pipe bomb attack in Omagh which targeted the annual Royal British Legion wreath-laying ceremony at the town's war memorial.

The suspicious object, which was discovered in a litter bin close to the Cenotaph, disrupted planned events but was made safe after a day-long operation which involved the PSNI and a bomb disposal unit.

Now determined organisers of the event have promised this part of their Remembrance Day programme will go ahead at the cenotaph this Sunday, November 19, after a fresh permission was granted on Monday. They have encouraged all sections of the community to come along and show the would-be bombers, believed to be dissident republican elements, that the town stands united.

Fears have also been expressed that this incident will rekindle memories for local people and communities who suffered at the hands of bombers in the Enniskillen and Omagh atrocities in 1987 and 1998 respectively.

Police have confirmed that not only was the device used a viable pipe bomb, but it had the potential to cause death and destruction to those attending. They have also appealed for anyone with any information or dash-cam footage to make it available to help their investigations.

Despite the chaos a Remembrance service still went ahead at Omagh Academy as planned. The shortened march followed the route directly from the Royal British Legion in Campsie and along Dublin Road to the school and then returned along that same route. The wreath-laying at the town's cenotaph was postponed after the area was sealed off following the discovery of the device just a few yards from the Cenotaph.

The new parade will march from the legion building on Campsie Road to Market Street and Bridge Street before reaching the war memorial at 11am then back to the legion for dispersal.

The alert, which caused major disruption in town all day, ended late on Sunday afternoon.

Chief Constable George Hamilton said enquiries were ongoing to find the "callous and violent" culprits.

 

"This small but potentially dangerous device was left to cause the maximum amount of disruption to the Remembrance Sunday commemorations. This is the action of a small and callous group of violent people who have nothing to offer our communities other than fear and intimidation," he said.

"If that had have been missed I dread to think what might have happened," he said.

The anger that the whole episode caused was palpable and generally angered the entire community.

DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted: "On a day we remember the carnage of Enniskillen 30 years ago it is disgusting that Remembrance Sunday in Omagh was disrupted by those who left a suspicious device in the town."

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire said there is "no place in society" for those responsible.

According to one local British Royal Legion source people of the town were "disgusted and annoyed".

"That probably doesn't adequately reflect their feelings and that's coming from both communities. I've looked at Facebook posts since Sunday and from all sections of the community and the message is unanimous - this was the last thing the town needed! It went through enough in 1998 and this has brought back bad memories and harsh reminders of what faceless people can do in the middle of the night and run away."

 

The source added that whether they intended to blow people up or cause disruption they would never know but the very act was a stark reminder for people who were on that street in 1987 and 1998 and what happened to them.

"Psychologically this is going to dent those people as well as the people of Enniskillen and bring back some horrible memories. Of course that will be furthermost from the minds of those who put the device in the litter box."

Chairman of the Omagh branch of the Royal British Legion, Richard Scott, has encouraged everyone to come along this Sunday and parade with dignity and respect.

"If other branches of the legion want to come along to support us in an act of solidarity, I'm certainly not going to turn them away. It's important we do show people that the people on parade do care about those who lost their lives in two world wars and subsequent events and we need to be allowed to do that with dignity and respect," he said.

Mr Scott said the first he heard about the device was at 7.15am on Sunday morning when he received a telephone call from the PSNI to tell him of the bomb alert at the war memorial.

"I didn't know anything at that stage so by the time I got to the legion office there were people starting to arrive and others en route. There was nothing I could do to stop that, so I made sure anyone that came in was given access to the legion building so they had a safe location."

 

Mr Scott said he then liaised with the local police and they confirmed to him they would carry out a route clearance between the legion and Omagh Academy building where the service was scheduled to take place, to make sure that was safe. The parade involved a few hundred participants who had come from all over the locality as well as the many youth organisations that were taking part in the parade that day. After the route clearance was completed around 9.20am I was able to bring the people out safely and we carried on as usual.

"We had a concern for the youth organisations and told them if they didn't want to parade I would get them a bus to take them to the Academy, but they wanted to parade as soon as they knew the route was safe."

Mr Scott said once he knew that he was determined they would go ahead and have that part of the ceremony.

"We can't cower down, we had to see as much of it through as possible. But I also knew I had to call a halt to the wreath-laying ceremony.

"There was disappointment and anger but we had to contain that and show determination. I told those assembled, Protestants and Catholics, that whenever they were marching off to hold their heads up high and walk with dignity, which they all did."

In relation to the timing of the incident, Mr Scott said to place such a device at a war memorial on Remembrance Sunday beggared belief.

"Omagh has gone through enough so for that to happen and throw that into the mix was disgusting

He added the local legion branch was grateful for the messages of support and goodwill it had received since Sunday.

"It gives us the determination to carry on and we will wear our poppies until next Sunday. I have to emphasise we wear our poppies for everybody in the community, doesn't matter who or what they were so we will continue and we will have that determination to finish our parade, we will not be put off.

Mr Scott praised the local PSNI and the Chief Constable for the efficient way in which the operation was carried out, especially the officers that detected the device whenever the alert was raised.

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