My grandmother was hired at Strabane fair and brought to Omagh. Her future husband had made a similar journey from Donegal some years earlier. My other grandparents were more local- Omagh was the nearest big town for them and they met and settled there.
My parents, my brother and I were all Omagh born; I spent my childhood there. Most of my extended family live in Omagh. I haven’t lived there for over 30 years, but since my mum lives there again, I’m in Omagh most weeks. Omagh will always be part of who I am.
Although I was based in Belfast, I worked part time in Omagh for a while, but only after the senior person involved had established who I was. Not just me, you understand, but the whole breed, seed and generation. He knew this aunt and that uncle. Oh, and you’ll be a niece of yer one and the other as well. What about? Ah, yes, a lovely man. And your father then, he’s not with us anymore, is that right? I remember your wee granny well. I would have been at school with your uncle then- a young man he is!
The world got to know about Omagh in 1998. We’ve all lost people we knew and cared for over the years, but that was different. Omagh had never had the tensions of Belfast, Derry or the border areas. We had been cocooned; until we weren’t.
On Saturday, for the worst possible reasons, the world remembered about Omagh.
Somebody decided that a young man had to be murdered at his home. Somebody thought it was ok to kill a 25 year old simply because of the job he did. Because he had chosen to work for the whole community. Somebody decided to risk other, unknown, lives. Somebody decided to bring horror and anguish back to Omagh and to all of the north.
Omagh is more than that. Omagh is a place in which to love and be loved, a place full of family and memories. We are better than that.