Remembering Omagh

The Omagh Bomb Memorial
I met the artist Seán Hillen last night, at the opening of Vue: The National Contemporary Art Fair in the RHA Gallagher Gallery in Dublin. Vue brings together under one roof about 15 contemporary art galleries from Dublin and Belfast to showcase new and recent work by Ireland’s leading artists.  It’s on until Sunday, the 6th of November.

But I was talking to Seán about the Omagh Bomb Memorial project which he created a few years ago.  The Omagh bombing was carried out on the 15th of August 1998 and 29 people were killed and approximately 220 people injured.  The victims included people from many different backgrounds – Catholics and Protestants, a Mormon teenager, two Spanish tourists, a woman pregnant with twins, several children – it was one of the worst attacks in the history of the Troubles.

I visited the memorial in 2009 and found it an extremely moving experience.  The site of the explosion is marked by a glass obelisk.  In a memorial garden, about 300 yards away, 31 mirrors catch the sun’s rays and send a beam of light back from the garden, via a complex arrangement of additional mirrors, until the light shines into the heart of the obelisk.  

Strangely enough, Omagh receives the least amount of sunshine in Ireland and so, because of its position, the bomb site is more often than not in the shade.  When I visited the town in August 2009, it was raining as we parked the car.  We visited the garden first and stood in silence by the pond as we thought of those who had died and of those who had been left behind.  We then made our way up through the town to the glass obelix and, we could hardly believe it, the rain had stopped and the sun shone briefly, sending its heavenly light into the wounded heart of the town.



  1. Very moving. A lot of places could use a bit of ‘heavenly’ light like that. It’s a nice idea.


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