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Sunday 5 July 2009

Dudley Edwards publishes a David and Goliath story

At last week's launch of Ruth Dudley Edwards' Aftermath: The Omagh Bombing and the Families' Pursuit of Justice, Lord Mandelson, who was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the time of the atrocity 11 years ago, said that "in a very deep way and in a very personal way", the attack "changed how I approached my job. But it also clarified what I was doing and why I was doing it and where I, and all those who I worked with, needed to end up with the people of Northern Ireland." The bombing, which killed 29 people and injured 200, gave him "huge energy".

Publication of Aftermath, which took Dudley Edwards six years to write because it was "so hard to do well and to do it right and because, at times, I thought there should not be a story to write about", came just three weeks after judgment was passed down in what is regarded as a landmark case, to which Mandelson lent his support. All the defendants were found guilty. It was the first occasion anywhere in the world when victims of terrorism directly confronted those responsible through the courts, a David and Goliath story that required the families of those who died to raise millions and to overcome numerous obstacles. Dudley Edwards was a lynchpin of the campaign from the outset and had complete access to everything and everyone involved, and her book describes events from half an hour before the bomb, planted by the Real IRA in August 1998 in an attempt to destabilise the peace process, until the last few weeks, tracing what happened to those involved, their families, and the human, legal and political stories.

Among those who spoke at the launch were Victor Barker, who lost his 12-year-old son in the attack, and Godfrey Wilson, who lost his 15-year-old daughter. Guests included IRA informer Sean O'Callaghan; Jason McCue, founding partner of H2O Law, which specialises in human rights cases; and David Trimble, now Lord Trimble, who was First Minister in Northern Ireland at the time of the attack and who was an architect of the power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland.

Aftermath is published as a Harvill Secker paperback, price £12.99.

Aftermath launch party
Photo: left to right Victor Barker, the Marquess of Salisbury, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Lord Mandelson, Jason McCue and Dean Godson (Toby Rhind-Tutt/Grey Trilby Photography)

Liz Thomson


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