“the one on the Sunday is not official..”

The relationship between the Omagh Support and Self-Help Group and Omagh District Council has never been great. Not least since the Council decided to remove the simple memorial to those killed and injured in the Omagh bombing in 1998, put in place by the support group, in order to replace it with the Council’s bright shiny alternative – along with less “contentious wording”. The memorial garden is now due to be officially dedicated during a remembrance service organised by Omagh District Council on 15 August, the 10th anniversary of the bombing, but some of the families involved in the Omagh Support Group will not be attending, preferring instead to hold their own memorial event next Sunday – as they have done in previous years. Church leaders in Omagh have, however, rejected an invitation to the Support Group’s Sunday memorial event and have said that they will only attend the Council’s official service.

Reverend John Murdoch, from the Presbyterian Church in Omagh, said he and the other church leaders had agreed unanimously that it was more appropriate for them to attend the council event. “We decided that we would support the main event on the Friday,” he said. “That is the official one, the one on the Sunday is not official.”

Update 12 August. Church leaders perform u-turn.

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  • wild turkey

    “To honour and remember 31 people murdered and hundreds injured from three nations by a dissident republican terrorist car bomb.”

    …nothing more need be said.

  • Billy Ghoti

    “Reverend John Murdoch, from the Presbyterian Church in Omagh, said he and the other church leaders had agreed unanimously that it was more appropriate for them to attend the council event.”

    More “appropriate” to support the council than the people personally affected by the atrocity? I would have expected more from churchmen. But then, these days, the church seems to have no direction or any sign of getting one soon.

  • Turgon

    When a Presbyterian minister follows this line is it surprising that the Presbyterian Church is quietly, slowly but continuously losing members?

  • Turgon

    I forgot to add: For a Presbyterian minister to ignore what the bereaved families want is of course utterly predictable when Rev. Dr. John Dunlop (a former Presbyterian moderator) was one of the major architects of the weasel worded compromise of the inscription.

    At least I am about to stop being a Presbyterian so I no longer need feel the shame of being associated with that organisation.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “At least I am about to stop being a Presbyterian so I no longer need feel the shame of being associated with that organisation.”

    Flippin hell, how deeply held were your beliefs, T?

    This episode shows, if nothing else, that whether we have 1, 4 or 40 Victim’s Commissioners, it’s going to be a nightmare.

  • point of information

    “Not least since the Council decided to remove the simple memorial to those killed and injured in the Omagh bombing in 1998, put in place by the support group,”

    This was raised in the press locally and it turns out that the “simple memorial” was actually put in place by the Council and was then taken by the families and engraved. Don’t think the Council were terribly pleased but there wasn’t much they could do about it.

    Also – it’s terribly hard to decide who actually speaks for “the families” – there are at least 3 to 4 seperate groups who all have slightly differing opinions. Those with the loudest voices however will usually get heard.

    Clearly some of the families don’t want anything to do with it, but from what I seen on the news there were 2 interviewed and even they weren’t saying the same thing. One said that people could/should go to both and the other said people should only go to the Sunday one.

    This is a lot more complex – particularly given the consultation which was carried out (amongst everyone affected) which settled on the new memorial.

    Sad however that it turned out like this.

  • Turgon

    billie-Joe Remarkable,

    It is a bit off topic but although first, last and foremost I am a Christian and a pretty fundamentalist one, I am also a Presbyterian and was quite proud of that.

    However, I do feel that many Presbyterian ministers especially those who seek the media spotlight are a very long way from where they should be and a long way from the majority of Presbyterians in the pews. The refusal to attend an “unofficial” service just about sums up the attitude of so many Presbyterian leaders and helps explain why the church is quietly losing so many members.

  • cynic

    So the ‘official’ nature of the commemoration is defined by the Council not the families of those killed and injured? Perhaps the victims and families don’t count in the face of the opportunity for posturing for some local dignitaries.

    Any why is there such a fuss on the wording? I have never fully understood the political analysis in this. Whose sensibilities might be affected by the wording on a simple memorial? Why is it so contentious? Many of the members of the council who blocked the relatives annually eulogize murders who across Ireland killed thousands of innocent Irish men and women. Is that a factor? Are the parallels too close to home? Or are they just tired of the families now?

  • Mark McGregor

    I know it sounds heartless as I write it but…..

    Should a minority of affected families, no matter how hurt, be allowed to dictate their view on every other family, group, church, party etc?

    They disagree. Most didn’t and they shouldn’t be presented as a majority view.

  • willis


    So what are you going to become? I would have thought that you had a fantastic choice of varieties of Presbyterianism – Vanilla, Free, Reformed, Evangelical, Non-Subscribing, not to mention all the English and Scottish variants.

  • Turgon


    Probably Indie Methodist (it is what Elenwe was).

  • wild turkey

    ‘I know it sounds heartless as I write it but….. ‘

    You are wrong Mark. It does not sound heartless. It is heartless. And totally lacking in any empathy, patience, doubt and compassion.

    Heartless and very political and cowardly. Full fucking stop.

    What was visited on the omagh families I pray never, never occurs to your family. Or mine.

    Your evidence base on the ‘minority’ families?. have you undertaken a poll?. Conducted focus groups?

    Or maybe you speak on behalf of the’community’?

    then again, your give away line is ‘party etc.’?

    And just which party would that be Mark?


    When you read their testimonies and stories and listen to the deep sorrow and pain they carry daily it’s obvious many of the Omagh relatives will never find peace in this world. I mean this was the most pointless reckless crazy attack on innocent people going shopping. If that wasn’t bad enough the police investigation was flawed and the families won’t get any justice. Some people on here should ask themselves how they would react if the person sitting in the room with them, in the kitchen or upstairs went out tomorrow and that was it. If the original memorial was what they relatives wanted it should have remained NO ARGUEMENT & END OF.

  • cynic


    So Mark, the issue is the ‘community’ in Omagh and not ‘a minority of families’ (ie mainly defined by those whose relatives were killed).

    So that’s alright then. They were just cannon fodder in the great war of liberation. What counts is how the community is ‘led’ to feel and remember.

    But I still cant get an answer on this. Why did those in Omagh Council want to stop the original wording? What was it that so bugged them? What was the logic?

  • A group of bereaved families, holding a service to commemorate their dead, invited churches to lead them in prayer and the churches said no.


  • Ashamed to be a Presbyterian


    I agree 100% with your sentiments if the original memorial was suited to the requirements of the Omagh families why did the Council interfere.

    The families wanted a simple memorial and as for the one that is replacing it I have to agree with them the original one was much more appropriate.

    As for the clergy of whatever ilk they should be ashamed of themselves, as a Presbyterian I understood it was the roll of the Church and its clergy to be pastors to their flock seems to me they have lost their way in trying to be all things to all men and have forgotten what their calling was really for SHAME ON THEM ALL

    PS the innocent victims families of whatever tragedy in Northern Ireland’s will never see justice in this country the establishment in the British Government are too preoccupied with crawling to the doers of the evil and fulfilling their very whim and demand. What a sorry place this is when the victims are vilified and castigated for their thoughts and feelings and the murderers and bombers are embraced.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I see no problem with the original wording, and I cannot understand why the church(es) could not have found a way to represent themselves at both ceremonies. For the church to refuse to attend one of the ceremonies is a nakedly political decision. It is interesting how this is a matter which everyone seems to be united on, although I wonder which parts of the wording Mark McGregor has issues with.

  • Eireannach Saolta

    I agreed wholeheartedly with John Skelton’s assertion when i heard it; that the politicians elected to the assembly are nothing more than a bunch of cowboys. There will never be anything other than a sectarian carve up as long as people continue to vote for Sinn Féin, the DUP,UUP,TUV etc etc. The only parties around that seem interested in real democracy seem to be the SDLP or Alliance.

  • Pete Baker
  • Noel Clannad

    The clergy of N.I. have always turned a blind eye to their own apparent doctrine in a vain attempt to court media pleasure even since the days of Scene Around Six.

    The people of Northern Ireland live in a constant sense of berievement. It doesn’t mater where you go or what situations one finds one’s self in… the misery prevails. Perhaps you lost the game, the election, the teenage will to carry on in this hell hole, the keys, the lighter, the car, the house, the aunt, the job, he under pass… but there is always the same unifying factor of each of these experiences. How do we remember?

    Look at the horror of the collective madness in each Belfast Telegraph. Top story about a child murder with a job and doing what he’s supposed to do after 16 years start again after paying for his crimes. He works near a playground. What insightful insight. None of the supposed journalists who infest the Tele would ever do a three year series on, ‘Your Local Terrorist: Where is he/she Now?’

    Is there some sort of media agreement in NI to stamp on dissent as part of power sharing? ‘Do you want a wee bag with that’?