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SOURCE: CAIN (Conflict Archive on the Internet) http://cain.ulst.ac.uk

Text and Research: Martin Melaugh

Chronology following the Omagh Bomb, 15 August 1998.

Saturday 15 August 1998
The Omagh Bomb

Twenty-nine people died as a result of an explosion at 3.10 pm in Omagh, County Tyrone. The bomb had been planted by the "real" Irish Republican Army (rIRA). The death toll represented the single worst incident within Northern Ireland since the beginning of the conflict. [33 people were killed in bombs in Dublin and Monaghan on 17 May 1974.] Among the dead were family members, one family lost members from three generations, and close friends, and a number of tourists from the Republic of Ireland and Spain. One woman who died was pregnant with twins. There were hundreds of people injured some of whom lost limbs or their sight. [28 people died on the day and an injured man died three weeks later. Another man was killed when the car he was driving was involved in a collision with an ambulance that was transporting injured people to a hospital in Belfast.] It was later learnt that there had been a misleading phone warning and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) directed people towards the bomb rather than away from it. [The code word used was that of the rIRA, a breakaway group of dissident members from the Provisional IRA who disagreed with the political direction being taken by the Sinn Féin leadership. There was outrage and shock across the whole population of Northern Ireland. Many people expressed the hope that this incident would mark a turning point in the conflict.]

Sunday 16 August 1998
The 32-County Sovereignty Committee issued a statement denying that the organisation was associated with those responsible for the Omagh bombing.

Monday 17 August 1998
The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) issued a statement calling upon the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) to announce a ceasefire. The IRSP said that it felt, in the light of the Omagh bombing, that the “armed struggle” could no longer be justified. The IRSP also felt that the INLA would call a ceasefire in the near future.

Tuesday 18 August 1998
“real” IRA Suspension of Military Actions

The "real" Irish Republican Army (rIRA) announced that "all military operations have been suspended". The announcement came in a telephone call to the Irish News, a Northern Ireland newspaper, at 11.35 pm and the “suspension” took effect from midnight. Earlier in the day the rIRA had contacted the Dublin office of the Irish News and stated that the organisation was responsible for the Omagh bombing but denied that it had deliberately set out to kill people. During the day people all over Ireland were still coming to terms with the death toll in the Omagh bomb as the first of the funerals took place. Funerals continued for the rest of the week.

Wednesday 19 August 1998
Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), announced his governments intention to introduce tough anti-terrorist measures. The proposals would include seizure of land or other property which has been used for storing weapons or making bombs. In addition it was announced that a suspect’s right to silence would be withdrawn. Ahern admitted that the measures could be described as "draconian".

Saturday 22 August 1998
INLA ceasefire

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) announced that it was to go on ceasefire as from midday. [In terms of size the INLA was the second largest of the Republican paramilitary organisations. There were calls for the Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) to also announce a ceasefire.]
The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) announced that it intended to establish a trust fund for the victims of the Omagh bombing.

Sunday 23 August 1998 ?
David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), travelled to Portadown for a meeting with local representatives of the Orange Order about the continuing protest at Drumcree. Trimble was called a "traitor" by Loyalists as he entered the meeting.

Sunday 23 August 1998
Christopher McWilliams, then Officer Commanding (OC) the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in the Maze Prison, declared that the "war is over".

Tuesday 25 August 1998
It was confirmed that both the Daíl and the House of Commons were to be recalled the following week to enact emergency legislation to deal with those paramilitary organisations which continued with violence.

Wednesday 26 August 1998
Blair Visits Omagh

Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, paid a visit to the site of the bomb in Omagh, County Tyrone. Blair promised draconian legislation to deal with any paramilitary groups that refused to call a ceasefire. Sinn Féin (SF) said the new measures would amount to "internment in another guise".

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