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12 August 2009

Aftermath review: by Joanne Ahem

On August 15, 1998 Omagh, Co Tyrone was put on the map for all the wrong reasons when, at 3.04pm, a massive bomb placed by the so-called Real IRA exploded killing 29 people and injuring 300. The dead ranged in age from one to 66 years.

The oldest and youngest victims were from the same family, as was a young mother, pregnant with twins. No one has ever been successfully prosecuted for the atrocity. Ruth Dudley Edwards' Aftennath is the story of how ten of the victims' families took on the Real IRA and made legal history by directly confronting those responsible through the courts. As well as contextualising the situation in the North, it also puts a human face on the victims. It relates their families' memories of them, from amusing little anecdotes, to the last time they spoke to them, to the anguish and fear at not being able to find their loved ones after the blast. Through the inquest it portrays the horrific injuries suffered by the dead and wounded, and the harrowing scenes faced by the police and the emergency services as well as the psychological impact the 'act of medieval savagery' had on the survivors. The book also explores the perceived political inaction in bringing those responsible to justice in light of the fragile peace process, along with interesting asides from the author, who was involved in the civil campaign from its inceplion. Dudley Edwards expertly weaves human interest, politics and the legal realm together to tell the remarkable tale of determination which saw the families stay the course to see those they felt responsible held accountable for the worst massacre in the recent history of Northern Ireland. Essential reading.

Joanne Ahem

© Metro

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