Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Omagh – 19 years on

Today is the 19th anniversary of the Omagh bomb outrage. To mark the day I have dug out the copy and materials I gathered with my trusty team for a Channel 4 microsite in 2004 (now long gone) which was created to accompany a drama by Paul Greengrass (who went on to direct the Bourne movies).

The look of the site can be seen here in this archive I made in 2009 on this self-same blog.

Below is the material I am bringing back to light for the record. Each contributor had been asked what Omagh meant to them and whether they see any silver lining in it at all (this was from 5 years after the outrage).

Inbetween I had filmed in the town for Barnardos, a year after the bomb, to highlight the work of child bereavement services. Roddy Gibson and Eddie McCaffrey, then of Emerald Productions, now of Middlesex University, accompanied me on a roadtrip for a location shoot which remains fresh in the mind. I particularly remember being told that there hadn’t yet been a big take-up of adult bereavement services in the wake of Omagh …but people had been coming forward during the year who had been caught up in the Enniskillen bomb. That had been twelve years earlier in 1987.

From the Channel 4 Omagh website (2004)

Omagh Guardian Unlimited The Weblog screen 1

Omagh Guardian Unlimited The Weblog screen 2

An item from The Guardian website from the day of transmission, a few hours before the Channel 4 Omagh site went live

Omagh pub anno Channel 4 TV public announcement

The public announcement that followed the broadcast on Channel 4

Omagh Contributions

(Text in bold indicates extracts used or highlighted)

Thanks to the original contributors for their insightful and moving words which I recapture here for posterity.

Seth Linder

Seth Linder is a writer, journalist and campaigner. His books include ‘The Ripper Diary’. He lives in Rostrevor, Co. Down.

Like the assassination of President Kennedy, everyone remembers where they were when they first heard of the Omagh bombing. I was driving with my wife through the Mourne Mountains in County Down, and I think the isolated beauty of our surroundings only heightened the horror of what we were hearing on the car radio. As with the Dublin and Monaghan bombs in the Seventies, it was partly the scale of the tragedy that appalled people but it was also the perception that what was really being targeted was hope. For the first time in thirty years, a peaceful future was a tangible if fragile possibility. Yet, it now seems as though the one consolation to be drawn from the terrible events of that day is that, rather than sabotaging that hope, Omagh led to a greater resolve throughout Northern Ireland to achieve that peace.

For those who lost family or friends or suffered injury and trauma there has been precious little to bring solace over the years. As a journalist, I have interviewed many who have endured similar tragedy, such as those who lost relatives at Hillsborough or Bloody Sunday. Like the Omagh relatives, I am sure, their search for the truth is an essential part of the grieving process.. How can people be expected to finally let go until they feel they have achieved some sense of justice for those they have lost. It took a whitewash and thirty years of campaigning for the Bloody Sunday families to get their public inquiry. The Hillsborough families have not and probably never will receive justice. One could cite many other similar instances. With Omagh we have, yet again, failed as a society to make the one contribution we must make to lessen the burden for those who have suffered so terribly. We have failed to bring them the truth. It is still not too late for the Omagh relatives. I hope this drama helps their cause.

Peter Makem

Peter Makem is a poet and writer from Armagh. His volume of poems Lunar Craving has been described as “some of the finest lyrical verse by any writer since WB Yeats”. Other publications include The Point of Ripeness. He was formerly manager of the Armagh Gaelic football team.

The Omagh bombings are a perfect example of justice for sufferers and victim’s relatives being at the mercy of the many interests and forces that have accumulated over the past thirty five years. These include Secret Service, Special Branch, protection of agents, high legal costs and intimidation. Five years later the impasse is slowly beginning to unblock but only after the relatives themselves have taken vigorous control of their situation. Omagh, the worst atrocity of the entire troubles has most show up the inadequacy of legal redress.

My poem ‘But we were drunk then’ refers to incidents in history when people carry out acts they are later ashamed of and wonder what impulse drove them to it in the first place. The term “drunk” of course does not mean alcohol, but being temporarily carried away by intense ideals, impulses and beliefs. Sometimes when I think of Omagh, I feel I would like to read this poem out to the perpetrators.

But We Were Drunk Then

Cromwell fresh from Wexford town
And the dark set of blood.
Cromwell’s reassembled throng,
Brattle of armour, strike of shod
Return to the camp, line by line
For prayers of thanksgiving,
For hymn and victory song,
And into sleep, and night’s toss- Oh then?
But we were drunk then.
Somebody set us drunk.
Someone slipped drink into our glass.

Only should blinding light come
Would Pizzaro lament the Inca dead,
Or Titus mourn Jerusalem,
Or Herod grip his head in shame.
Only should light strike
Would Paul of Tarsus beg the dark
In skin locked at eyelid
And moan, and curse- Oh then?
But we were drunk then.
Somebody set us drunk.
Someone slipped drink into our glass.

Our piper’s fingers shaped the ancient
Impulse of the race, a first cry
From first born, the story went,
Departing from a lover’s balm
Moved off half soul, half body,
Tossed, twisting storm as calm
And every motion the possession
Of the vanished lover.
Our singers moved around that tune.
Dancers stepped it up the floor.

And dusk is full of beginnings,
High above the fulcrum
Beyond the starling and the plover
Glowing warrior and lover
Soar upon the shores of day
Until their wings fall away.
Only at the still pendulum
Might lips move, whisper pass- Oh then?
But we were drunk then.
Somebody set us drunk.
Someone slipped drink into our glass.

They live on Paradise, they
Moving under long oppression
Bring their flower in full blossom
Before the arc of dawn.
Rendered old, rendered young with pain
Stand attention to their dream,
And all that is not of Eden
Hated in the oppressor’s way
All who should feed the root
Of the forbidden fruit,

And war it is. War the call.
The tidal surge won’t turn
Until its moon is spent.
Prayers floats there, supplication
On the shore bound swell
And rock and great rock shaken.
After, the seas, the shrunken, penitent
Seas far out lap remorse- Oh then?
But we were drunk then.
Somebody set us drunk.
Someone slipped drink into our glass.

reproduced with permission from Peter Makem. (c) 2002 Peter Makem 

Katrina Battisti

Katrina Battisti is a theatre nurse from Omagh. She was in Omagh town centre at the time of the bomb.

Both myself and my husband, Shane, are from Omagh and were in town on the day of the bombing. We were trying to park the car and were redirected to another car park because of the bomb scare. On the way we stopped for forty seconds or so to let some cars pass. If we hadn’t, we probably would have been in the vicinity of the bomb when it went off as we were walking in that direction. People were screaming and shouting for help but there was so little you could do. I remember holding paper towels against a girl’s wounds to stem the bleeding. People got organised very quickly, Soon after, that girl was taken to hospital in a furniture delivery van. Our immediate worry was Shane’s sister, Eileen, who has a hairdressing salon opposite where the bomb went off. As we walked towards the salon we saw clouds of smoke, people were staggering around covered in blood, dazed and scared, and there was a terrible smell of burning flesh. I saw a body underneath the mangled wreckage of a car, though I could see no legs.

Eileen had not been injured by the bomb but the panic had brought on a severe asthma attack and we drove her to hospital, where I had actually been working until the day before. The Out Patients area had been turned into a mini treatment room. Cleaners were washing the blood from the floor and you could hear the noise of helicopters taking people away to other hospitals. Lots of off-duty staff and GPs had come in to help. I remember being told that one person had died and one person lost their legs and I was horrified even then. It was a while before we knew the full scale of the fatalities. Despite the shock, the hospital was well organised. Senior staff were taking details of patients and posting them on the noticeboards so relatives knew which ward to go to.

Omagh is a small town. If you don’t know someone, you know of them, so most people knew someone who had lost a member of their family. I just remember when we came home lying down on the sofa, and the impact of what had happened, all the horror, anger and grief we had witnessed, hitting me. I couldn’t sleep for a week and couldn’t get it out of my head for many months. It’s taken a long time for the town to recover physically and psychologically. It’s good to see some of the smaller shops which were destroyed coming back. We now have a two year-old daughter and a baby on the way. We can’t help thinking sometimes of that forty seconds or so we waited for cars and what might have been.

I think the one thing you can take away from that day is the way people rallied around and did all they could to help. There was a real community spirit and there is great admiration for the way the relatives have fought for justice. People like Michael Gallagher. They could have been overcome with hatred and bitterness but they have conducted themselves with such dignity. What people in Omagh can’t understand is what the bombers thought they could achieve. Omagh is a mixed town but it wasn’t a divided town before the bombing and it certainly isn’t now. If anything it has brought people even closer together.

Nell McCafferty

Nell McCafferty is a journalist, broadcaster and playwright – one of the most provocative, interesting activists and commentators in Ireland. She has written for publications ranging from the The Irish Times to Hot Press. Her books include ‘A Woman to Blame’, ‘Goodnight Sisters’, ‘Nell on the North: War, Peace and the People’ and ‘Peggy Deery’. She was born on Derry’s Bogside and now lives in Dublin.

We were on the first night of our holidays in Kerry when the news came in. The northerners separated  immediately into  a miserable  group. The television reception was grainy.  Next morning,  I went to Mass for the first time since childhood.  The priest spoke in Irish, and prayed  for the dead of Omagh. Afterwards, in the mist, locals confirmed that we had heard the numbers correctly. Trying to put a face on the little town,  I thought of  Stevie Mc Kenna, who used to entertain us in the Queen’s University  Glee Club with his rendition of a Russian dance. Phil Coulter was his pal, then , in the hope-filled  sixties. I do not believe that the bombers meant to kill civilians but their carelessness  was morally criminal. It  gets on my nerves that the families want to pursue  and hold individuals to blame, when all our energies should be directed towards resurrecting the peace process – and the contradiction of that is that I am still clanking my Bloody Sunday chains. So a small part of me cheers for the Omagh survivors who refuse to let any of us forget.

Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson is a radio and TV broadcaster. He has a daily show on BBC Radio Foyle/Radio Ulster.

Having lived in Omagh for short periods over the years, I developed a sense of the people who lived there. They were and are articulate, convivial and musical people. And, in a sense, people well accustomed to being passed over and ignored by governments that had consistently failed them. Consequently, no place less deserved the tragedy that befell them.

I was in Omagh a few days after this terrible event when thousands gathered to hear, among others, Juliet Turner bravely communicate with the people through music. It summed up for me the spirit of the people. No other town in Ireland would have permitted a young girl to stand up and sing what amounted to a modern/pop song on such a day.

Shoppers were killed at random but it is no accident that many of their relatives were so capable of graphically articulating their feelings and had the spirit to fight doggedly through the years to ensure that those who planned and planted the bomb would pay for their crimes.

These were ordinary people who rose above themselves. This is the ultimate legacy of Omagh; that ordinary people couldn’t and wouldn’t rest until justice was seen to be done.  

Eddie McCaffrey

Eddie McCaffrey is a video producer/director from Omagh.

When asked how they should be portrayed in a ‘promotional’ video, a

year after the Omagh bomb, the people of Omagh overwhelming told me

“tell the world we are ordinary, normal people”. Remaining true to

their own core belief, after all that they have been through over the

last 5 or 6 years, is testimony to the ‘extra-ordinary’ qualities of the

people of Omagh.

Tommy Sands

Tommy Sands is a singer, songwriter and social activist from Co. Down. Pete Seeger said of him: “Tommy Sands has achieved that difficult but wonderful balance between knowing and loving the traditions of his home and being concerned with the future of the whole world.” His songs have been recorded by Joan Baez, Dolores Keane, The Dubliners among many others. His recordings include To Shorten the Winter.

The fifteenth of August was the day we used to go to Warrenpoint to say prayers and paddle in the water. There was a cure that day, they said.

But I was in Milwaukee when the word came through.

Just about to go on stage. It was a festive event with ten thousand in the audience. They had just heard the news too. No one felt like singing yet we knew there was no other way to express such sorrow. Eileen Ivers played a lament on the fiddle. Like a keening song of old, not to make us sad but to let the sorrow out. To bring back life. There was a silence I had never heard before. I sang “There were Roses and the tears of the people ran together”.

Omagh was a defining moment. If there had been any doubts before that we needed to support a peace process there was none now. The last straw.  Out of the ashes came a prayerful permanence. Never again. Out of death came a thousand lives suddenly saved. The cure of innocence bestowed upon us all by Omagh Martyrs. 

Geraldine McCrory

Geraldine McCrory works for Barnardo’s in Omagh providing bereavement support for children and young people.

I feel that my personal reflections for 2004 are

centred on the fact that in the latter twelve months

Omagh has finally come to life again with lots of

regeneration of the main shopping area. The town

now has a ‘buzz’ about it and this in itself creates,

in my view a feeling of ‘hope’ and ‘trust’ which had

been lost to the town and its community for quite some

time.

I attribute this not only to the Bomb in Omagh but to

the aftermath in which the town, for almost three and

half years, had been subjected to regular bomb hoaxes.

These had the ability to make the town and community

come to a stand still and made us revisit the horrors

of the Bomb in August ’99- whether we wanted too or

not!

For me I see the cessation of these hoax calls as a

‘light at the end of the tunnel’. It affords the

opportunity for the town of Omagh and its local

community to begin taking baby steps towards progress

and moving from Fear and Darkness into Optimism and

Hope!

Dina Shiloh

Dina Shiloh is a journalist. She lived in Israel for 15 years.

In “The Diameter of the Bomb” Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai wrote of the way one bomb kills and injures a specific number of people – those who happened to be a few centimetres from the explosion – and how the bomb’s ripples of pain spread further and are felt by people all over the world. Amichai was writing of the conflict in his city, Jerusalem, but his words are equally resonant for the people of Omagh. The effects of a bomb are not only felt by the families of those who happened to be there at that precise moment, but by their friends, their work-mates, the wider community. Nearly six years after the Omagh events, people in Ireland are still feeling the repercussions of the bomb, yet they have been able to move towards a peaceful resolution of their conflict. Perhaps they can give hope to those in Amichai’s city, Jerusalem.

Colin Bateman

Colin Bateman is a novelist and writer. For a number of years he was the deputy editor of the County Down Spectator. As a journalist he received a Northern Ireland Press Award for his weekly satirical column and a Journalist’s Fellowship to Oxford University for his reports from Uganda. His novels include ‘Divorcing Jack’,  ‘Turbulent Priests’,  ‘Chapter and Verse’ and  ‘Driving Big Davie’. He lives in his native Co. Down.

Omagh was a horrible, horrible thing –  but as the years go by, unless you were personally involved,  it just gets added to the list of horrible atrocities that went before it. I don`t think there was any `silver lining` or any shift in public perception, there will always be mad bastards who want to kill innocent people to make a point. I kind of like the idea of the killers` children asking, `What did you do in the war, daddy?`  I`d like to hear that explanation.

Some Late Arrivals (which did make it to the site)

Eoin McNamee

Eoin McNamee is a novelist and poet. He was born in Kilkeel, Co. Down in 1961. He was educated in various schools in the North and at Trinity College, Dublin. Eoin has lived in Dublin, London and New York. His publications include The Last of Deeds, Resurrection Man, (made made into a feature film for which he also wrote the script), The Language of Birds, Blue Tango and The Ultras.

Eoin now lives in Sligo.

From: eoin mcnamee
Sent: 25 May 2004 14:19
To: Adam Gee
Subject: Re: Omagh – 5 Years On

Dear Adam
try this-its a bit more than 5 or 6 sentences, but they`re short sentences-give me a ring if theres any problem-home til about 4 then on
mobile
best
eoin
Ps marie is shy

The correspondances between the Omagh bomb and the Dublin/Monaghan bombings are striking, five years after one, thirty years
after the other.
These were mass killings of profound political effect, and, certainly in the case of the latter, political intent. The relatives and dead are
in each case alloted their role and refused any other. They face official indifference, incompetence and worse. There is a sense of other
agendas being pursued. What is particularly striking is the way that both sets of relatives have been forced to adopt unconventional
legal tactics to force conclusions-in one case, the inquest process, in the other the adoption of private prosecutions.
The parapolitical complexities which have dogged the North roll on, seemingly immune to change. There is no such thing as the
agendaless dead, it seems, when it comes to the north eastern corner of the archipegelo. We`re told to accept the future as bright, and
history as being a cortege from which we are to avert our eyes. Don`t enquire because you might find out the truth. And that would be the real catastrophe.

Brian Kennedy

Brian Kennedy is a singer and songwriter, a great ambassador of music for Ireland. He was born in 1966 and brought up on the Falls Road, Belfast. His recordings include Live in Belfast, On Song, Get On With Your Short Life and Won’t You Take Me Home. Brian performed in Omagh on 22nd May 2004 and wrote his contribution to this website the following day.

Sent: 23 May 2004 17:24
To: Adam Gee
Subject: OMAGH….a few words from Brian Kennedy.

Hey Adam, just played Omagh last night and it was a WILD show! My goodness,
it was great to see them in such fine form.
So here goes.

” It filled my heart to the brim to hear the people of Omagh sing again
after having so much to cry about. Singing seems to be a different kind of
crying altogether and although Omagh can never be the same again, their
voices rose with a mighty passion known only to those who have lost so much
and lived to see another hopeful day. I felt truly humble in the presence of
these people.”

Love Brian Kennedy.

x

Jeremy Hardy

Jeremy Hardy is a comedian and campaigner.

Omagh was such a sad, stupid, pointless atrocity, committed by people refusing to look at another way forward.

It was an attack on a largely harmonious town – a town which stands as a symbol for what Northern Ireland could be like.

It’s also time that people who want to investigate what happened look not only at the perpetrators but also at the failure of the RUC.

Eamon Hardy

Eamon Hardy is a Senior Producer at BBC Television. He has been involved with numerous landmark documentaries on Panorama and elsewhere including ‘Death on the Rock’, ‘A Licence to Murder’ and ‘Who Bombed Omagh?’ Eamon grew up in Kilkeel, Co. Down.

As a documentary film maker I’ve traveled the world to record some very painful stories, the human scars of war, famine and conflict; the 13 year old girl gang-raped by soldiers in Bosnia, the Palestinian mother who’d just lost her children in an Israeli missile attack. Of all the grief I’ve been witness to however, nothing has moved me more than the stories of the families in Omagh.

I was born and raised in the North of Ireland and still considered it home. I felt an instant and intimate understanding of these people’s lives. Michael Gallagher was a man I knew although we’d never met. His gentle, soft-spoken courtesy as he invited John Ware and myself into his home was that of family friends and relatives I grown up around.

His hospitality too, gallons of well brewed tea and plates of thickly buttered barnbrack, was the taste of celebrations and even wakes from my own childhood. The familiar comfort of his ‘good’ room with it’s china cabinet filled with Belleek pottery and Tyrone crystal could have been my mother’s.

My heart was disadvantaged even before this dignified man told the story of how, after the bombing, he went to search for his son Aiden. He found him. In the mortuary.

Kevin Skelton’s wife Philomena was caught by the blast as she sifted though the rails of a clothes shop. He found her face down in the rubble.

The Skeltons weren’t well-to-do people but were remarkable for their ordinariness and decency. Kevin described with such love a quiet but energetic woman, always on the go. Her sounds were the sounds of his life.

I’ll never forget the haunting description of his loneliness and grief. “It’s an awful thing”, he told us, “to walk into your home for the first time and hear the clock ticking.” For a long time after recording Kevin I heard that clock’s lonely echo.

Oran Docherty pleaded with his mother Bernie to allow him to go on a bus trip to Tyrone. He was only eight and had never been away on his own before. Bernie was reluctant but conceded in the end, as mothers do. After kissing him goodbye she stood at the door of her Donegal home to watch him disappear excitedly down the street. He hardly dared to look back incase his mum changed her mind.

The next time Bernie saw her son was in the mortuary at Omagh general hospital. Her description of seeing him in that moment wrenched the heart of every parent: “Whatever way his wee lip was, his bottom lip, to me it looked as if he was crying when he died”.

I’ve always considered it a privilege to come into these distraught people’s lives and give voice to their grief. I’ve often felt guilt. When the camera stops rolling and the lights go out our strange, fleeting acquaintance ends. We leave them alone with their broken hearts.

Adrian Dunbar

Adrian Dunbar is a film, television and theatre actor and producer. He grew up in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh. His screen credits include ‘Hear My Song’, ‘My Left Foot’, ‘The Crying Game’, ‘Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’ and ‘The General’. He is currently appearing at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin in The Shaughraun.

I got into a cab in Finsbury Park in London. The taxi driver, who was Irish and knew me, said: “that’s terrible what’s after happening in Omagh.”

What?
“Massive explosion. They’re saying a lot of people dead.”
I couldn’t wait for him to get me home. I got quickly to the phone. Two of my sisters, Roisín and Christina, and their families lived in Omagh.
“They are all ok,” said my mother “and so are Liam and John.”
I didn’t know it but my two brothers were also working in the town that day.

Two weeks later, my wife Anna and I visited Omagh. The shock in the town was still palpable. I looked into the river Strule and remembered as a boy how excited I was when told of the Swan mussels that lived there, and because the Strule was sandy, they sometimes contain pearls. I remember buying my first guitar, a Fender Jazz Bass, from Aidan McGuigan and the fun I had with Frank Chisholm and Ray Moore and Paddy Owens, on the road with Frank’s Elvis show.

Omagh was west of the Bann, overlooked, high unemployment, screwed by the planners, and now this. I said a prayer for the dead and for the living. A couple of months later I was at a party in Omagh. Without warning, a girl broke down in tears. No one rushed to her, a couple of her friends dealt with her calmly. “She was in the bomb” I heard someone saying and that was all.

Like those scary adults of my childhood who had never recovered from the horror of the First World War, old men who would shout and cower in the street, I could see that the people of Omagh would live every day with this tragedy.

May love find them wherever they are.

Omagh website Channel 4 homepage 2004

The homepage of the Channel 4 Omagh website

Channel 4 Omagh website design

The design by Mark Limb

A letter to Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney

X Strand Road

Sandymount

Dublin 4

Eire

23/04/2004

Dear Seamus

I am currently working on a project which I thought may be of interest to you (I was involved in the ‘Omagh: Where Hope & History Rhyme’ video made for the District Council a few years ago to which you so kindly contributed) and wanted to invite you to express your reflections on Omagh from five years on.

As you may know, Channel 4 has commissioned and now taken delivery of a drama on the bombing of Omagh and its aftermath (written by Paul Greengrass) and as part of the on-line programme support (on the channel4.com website) we are adding a reflective dimension to the project by including the thoughts of various people connected with Omagh and Northern Ireland in a variety of ways (not straight-forwardly political, mainly cultural) about what Omagh means to them from the perspective of 2004 and what (if any) silver lining they can see to this cloud.

The easiest way to contribute your thoughts would be by sending them in by email to agee@channel4.co.uk.

Otherwise we can speak on the phone and you can dictate your comments. Or of course a good old-fashioned letter to: Adam Gee, Channel 4 – 4Learning, 124 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2TX.

It would also be very helpful to get a photo/image to illustrate your contribution. Do you have an image of yourself, a book cover or something related to you which we could use for this? (Ideally an image you own the copyright in and are happy for us to use in this context. If however it belongs to a third party, then could you please also supply details of the copyright owner so we can clear the image properly for usage.)

I do hope you can find the time to share your reflections.

Kind regards

a d a m . g e e
c r e a t i v e / c o m m e r c i a l . d i r e c t o r
c h a n n e l 4 . 4 l e a r n i n g
0 2 0 . 7 3 0 6 . 8 3 0 6
0 7 7 8 7 . 5 0 1 1 4 8
agee@channel4.co.uk
http://www.channel4.com

Selections from the Channel 4 Omagh forum

every person should watch this as an education for our futures !!!!

i cant even begin to say how much that film has touched me. i remember the bomb happening, but i was only 11 so i dont really remember much about it. however, my heart goes out to all the families and victims of the omagh bombing. its events like this that make u realise life is precious, and you should treasure every moment

The integrity of Michael Gallager and all the Support Group members is a lesson to us all and an inspiration in a country where no doubt many other appalling deals have yet to come to light. Sensitively handled and superbly dramatised.

A magnificently made documentary, with superb low-key performances, sensitively portrayal of the events, and cleverly incorporation of all victims. I am 22 years old and in such a short life, I have seen many tragedies in my life. I also grew up in Ireland and after a while one gets used to it… Why should I get used to it?

this is exactly the sort of programme the BBC should be producing instead of gardening make overs and eastenders. well done channel 4.

Possibly the best piece of television to be aired in the UK in the last 10 years(or more). Brilliant in every aspect.The realism of the bombings and the grief process.The casting, the editing.especially the direction and camera work…..outstanding. Well written and punching their message home.
Six years now since I walked into my sitting room and flicked on “Sky News” to hear “Broken things ” being sung so poignantly at their commemoration service. Ten years this July since I buried my own dear son Sean.
Well done Channel 4….Well done

Thank you for being brave enough to make this programme. It is one of the best I have ever seen. I can’t see to type properly for my tears.

To all of you involved…..my thanks. To the families involved….I know you will never forget, or forgive but I hope that every day you feel a little better than the last, you are ordinary special people and a wider audience are listening tonight.

hello, i am 16 and have lived in omagh all my life. even though i was only young when the bomb happened, i can still remember it as if it was yesterday, things like that you will never forget, i have so much sympathy but also respect for anyone who was involed in the helping out during the bombing, sympathy for what they had to go through and the tragedy they had to experiance and respect for their courage. that day is a day i will remember always, it has left a scar in the hearts of many many people and no matter how much people get on with their lives, there will always be reminders. the people of omagh have grown stronger because of this tragedy. and hopefully all the families of the victims can get on with living their lives to the best they can. May peace stay with them and strength to move on.

Reading this board it seems to me that this drama on Channel 4 tonight has made a lot of people think. I hope it isn’t the triumph of hope over reality to hope that it’s made the right people, on both sides of the divide, think?

It seems that too much goes on behind our backs with the governments and political parties/groups and its the innocent who suffer from it

I can only agree with all the commendation for this excellent program. It stands as a chilling reminder of the the kind of priorities which rule the peace process though.

there was no good of any kind that came out of this terrorist act, nor the policing that was supposed to be there to stop it.

i left ni not long after this and unfortunatly those who initially seemed to be doing good for its future are back doing no good in other ways.

This was a very well produced programme which brought back many painful memories to me. I just hope that it can help remind those who hold NI’s future what they are there to do. They seem to need reminding.

Can C4 send every idiot polition in NI a copy of this for their collection and name it ‘never forget why!’.

I found it very moving and very well done.Well done C4,RTE,Irish film board.I only hope yesterdays ruling in Belfast about the real ira not being a terrorist group under the terrorism act does not affect the families court case against the RIRA.We need more TV like this.

As an ex RUC member the drama refuels the anger felt towards the ombudsman. The Nationalist political points scoring from Nuala Oloan.
Ask any Policeman how good an informer is, at the bottom of it he is a criminal, a liar and out to get money. The information from Fulton was crap, there is absolutely no doubt in that.
If Police were to act on all information, no one would go to work.
Ask the Ombudsman;
1/ how many threats came in regarding a second bomb in Omagh for several weeks after August 98?
2/ How many threats are there regarding threats to life in Northern Ireland right now in 2004?
Its an easy target the Police, not so easy doing the job, nobody wants to help and there are many double edged swords and pitfalls along the way.
My thoughts go out to the families concerned, they like many thousands in Northern Ireland will never get Justice. Those involved in the many crimes against innocent people over our history will be judged by their creator.

To the ex RUC gentleman. Few of us from the North who have any sence don’t know the excellent job the force does in protecting the people of Northern Ireland and the program cant have shown the individual act of RUC men in Omagh in 1998 that were so important in preserving the lives of those who survived.

Still I am sure you understand how difficult the lack of transparency must have been to the families involved.

Those families will be an inspiration to us all in the years to come thanks to programs of this kind. Scotsmen play films such as Braveheart to give them pride in their heritage but all Northern Irish people can be proud of the commitment of those families.

I was a member of the organisation that has been the subject of so much criticism in this programe. Indeed I was on duty that terrible day. Not at the time of the explosion but several hours after. We were brought in to search the damaged buildings for the injured or the dead. Most of the buildings were near to collapse. We risked everything to enter those buildings in the vain hope of finding people alive. We then spent the next five days digging through the rubble in the bomb scene trying to find evidence, to piece together the the device, in order to catch the perpetrators of this terrible crime. Unfortunately I don’t believe that I’ll ever recover from the experience.

Despite the contents of this programe, I know that we did our level best during those days to do what had to be done to bring those responsible to justice.

My thoughts are with those left behind.

The program has shown the RUC to be criticised at it’s leadership and intelligence level. Lets not confuse that with the many men and women of the service who worked so hard at that time. I saw a police officer crying that day. What those people had to deal with was awful, but they did it with dignity and great inner strength. Many of those officers are suffering to this day. I am sure that some must blame themselves for leading so many people to that end of town. I dont think any of us blame thos officers for anything. Those officers who were there that day are as much victims as the ordinary members of the public. They too were let down. Lets not forget that they too are people like the rest of us.

I feel that if anything positive is to come of this programme it will be to remind those not living in Ulster that no one has ever been brought to justice for this atrocity and that just because we don’t hear about it in the news anymore it doesn’t mean that the suffering has stopped.

i also have lived in omagh all my life it is a beautiful town and there is not a day goes by that we suffer in silence about that awful day the fear of finding our loved ones dead and the guilt that we felt for finding them alive no film can ever show what we suffered and will continue suffering in silence no matter who is found quilty , if ever found quilty

I moved to Omagh from England shortly before the bomb, and was thankfully not allowed into the town that day as the police were in the process of setting up the cordon. I heard the bomb go off a few minutes later and my first reaction was of disbelief and confusion. I didn’t want to believe what was clearly obvious.
I watched the program this evening and found myself reliving aspects of that day and the months that followed. Thankyou for a necessary reminder of a day that should never be repeated and never never forgotten.
In the months that followed, I found on my trips back to England that everyone I came into contact with knew of Omagh. At the time I thought it a shame that Omagh was so well known for such an appauling reason, but I now find that when I speak to people on the phone from England, or when I visit England, everyone I meet appears to have never heard of Omagh. I have asked people “Do you not remember the bomb?” I find that they dont.
I actually find this far more disturbing than I would ever have imagined. That something so terrible can happen and capture the attention of so many people around the world and then be forgotten in so few years is a poor reflection of the world in which we live. We must remember so that we can learn. Forgetting the past to move forward to me is absurd.
Thanks again to the program makers for a necessary wake up call.

I’m from Omagh but moved to England in 1999. There’s not a single day that goes by that I don’t think of everyone at home. There are often tears. It was incredibly difficult to watch this programme tonight but I felt that Gerard McSorley, a native of Omagh, was excellent.
The question is, what can we do to help?

I would just like to say thank you to channel 4 and most of all the families of Omagh bombing for bringing this tragady more into the pubilc eye with a moving and heart felt documentary.
I am also disgraced in the way that the families were treated by the so called justice system.
Please let me know what actions we can take to help you fight for what is right.

Well done to channel 4 etc for highlighting the ongoing heartache of Omagh. I realise that with something so horrendous, much needs to be censored, but I was there, and the scenes from this program don’t even begin to show the true extent of the suffering. The hospital scenes in particular only showed the tip of the iceberg.
It was much much worse than that.
I had my reservations about watching this. I didn’t spend the last 5 and a half years trying to get those memories out of my head just to have them all brought back, but I was really impressed by the sensitivity shown by the film makers. This was painful, but compulsive viewing.
This was a well written, well researched peice. Well done channel 4.

As a grown man i don’t think i have cried in a long time, but watching that last night just made me very emotional. I’m not from Omagh and don’t for one second pretend to feel the same as those families but i was sadden and sickened.

I have never felt so emotional about any piece of drama.

Well done Channel 4 for making such a touching and thought provoking film. It can’t have been easy.
I have nothing but admiration and respect for the victims’ families, who retained their dignity and courage whilst coming up time and again against those who just wanted to ignore them for the sake of the peace process. In my view, there can be no peace until they are heard and the lessons are learnt.

Strength

I love this photo from the news this week

 

Saffiyah Khan

Brummie Saffiyah Khan takes on the EDL mentality

Making films not throwing bombs

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Rainer Werner Fassbinder

I was standing under this poster at the foot of Waterloo Bridge on a Skype call to Germany, homeland of Fassbinder. The poster was on the wall of the BFI/NFT advertising a new season of films. The bridge is the next road bridge down the Thames from Westminster Bridge. The call was to fellow participants of Berlin-based Documentary Campus and we were discussing the films we are all working on.

I was Skyping from my phone on the street because I had an adjacent meeting about the creation of an app to address the global problem of 10,000 children dying every day from preventable diseases. I had no time between the call and the meeting so had to dial in from the open air.

The other call participants commented on the noisiness of the London streets – sirens, helicopters, traffic. I said this was just normal for London (which it often pretty much is along the river there). Then one of the callers from Germany said no it’s not, there’s been a terrorist attack. For a moment I hesitated to see if it was some kind of joke, the same reaction as one or two of the other participants. But then it became clear he was not joking, that the site of the attack was around Westminster.

A strange way to learn of such a tragedy.

33592905545_7e22ae807b_oThis was the blood red sky in the direction of Westminster as I left the meeting.

thames london attackThis was the blood red sky as I reached the river under Waterloo Bridge.

33435945812_8afd4c2077_oThis was the view towards Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. The blue lights were still flashing.

A second big indiscriminate attack on the multicultural population of this greatest city in this grim period for the world. Innocent bystanders from Brittany and Romania, Lancashire and Lord knows where, no more than the perpetrator knew where. This beautiful view in stark contrast to the ugliness of the act and the ‘thinking’ behind it.

Do the Right Thing: Google v Morality

OK Google, did the Holocaust happen?

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4 reasons to read The Sellout

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So we had our 15th Anniversary Book Group gathering last night and the book in the spotlight, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, was highly praised by all but one of our number, getting 9s and even 10s in our scores (for Literary Merit and Enjoyment), one of the most popular choices in the whole decade and a half.

My review on GoodreadsA dense and intense tour de force with shades of Catch 22 (absurdity), David Foster Wallace (intensity) and Candide (humanity), filled with insight about how black people are seen and see themselves in the USA (and beyond).

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Here are 4 good reasons to read this standout satirical novel:

(i) On lawyers:

The Chief Justice meekly raises his hand.

“Excuse me, Mr Fiske [the defending lawyer], I have a question…”

“Not right now, motherfucker, I’m on a roll!”

 

(ii) On education:

Two hundred kids quieted instantly and turned their attention deficit disorders toward me.

 

(iii) On weed:

“What the fuck is this, dog?” Puppet coughed.

“I call it Carpal Tunnel. Go ahead, try to make a fist.”

Puppet tried to ball his hand but failed.

 

(iv) On intellectuals:

The meetings consisted mostly of the members who showed up every other week arguing with the ones who came every other month about what exactly “bimonthly” means.”

Classic satire in the heritage of Waugh and Swift that’s laugh-out-loud funny.

Enemies of the People

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Chairwoman update

Just back from the Aesthetica Short Film Festival in York where I had my first official Sell Out as far as I can recall.

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I was doing a Masterclass on factual/unscripted short form video. In the Green Room after I met Dr Melanie Williams of UEA where she is Head of Film, Television and Media Studies. She specialises in post-war cinema and has written a monograph on David Lean (very appropriate in that I’m writing this in BAFTA which Lean founded and which Aesthetica feeds into via the Short Film category in the Film Awards). As we chatted the subject of Christine Keeler’s 60s movie came up – see Chairman of the Board below. Well it turns out one of her colleagues at the University of East Anglia has a particular interest in ‘The Keeler Affair’ movie (1963) and in fact (contrary to what I had read) it was made but was never granted a BBFC certificate in the UK, so it only played abroad. Lewis Morley, the photographer who photographed Keeler in That Chair, refers slightly erroneously to: “an intended film which never saw the light of day”.

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It also seems to have another title, ‘The Christine Keeler Story‘, and it turns out that Keeler doesn’t exclusively play herself despite posing for the publicity photos – Yvonne Buckingham plays her although Keeler is also listed as “Herself”. Same for Mandy-Rice Davies who both plays herself and is played by Alicia Brandet.  I’ve yet to find out how Buckingham & Keeler and Brandet & Rice Davies squared that circle though there are some clues in the clip I found below.

NPG x131954; Christine Keeler by Tom Blau

Call Girl – untitled photograph by Tom Blau (1963)

In the synopsis Keeler is referred to as a “teenage prostitute” which seems both harsh and not entirely accurate. I like the term “good-time girl” which is often used to hedge bets in this type of context.

And here’s the bit I found. Quite intriguing. A disco ball in the courtroom… like it.

***

I went from BAFTA in Piccadilly round the corner to the May Fair Hotel for a BAFTA Film Awards screening of ‘American Pastoral’ with leading man and director Ewan McGregor in attendance. It is a striking and original film, directed with amazing aplomb for a first movie (this is McGregor’s directorial debut). It is a thoughtful interpretation of Philip Roth’s novel, not spoonfeeding the audience and concluding with an uncompromisingly enigmatic end. McGregor spoke with great articulacy and clarity about his method as an actor-director. What came across strongly is that this is an actors’ film – the rehearsal and shooting process, as well as the framing and camera movement, were all focused on enabling the actors to do their thing in an imaginative and fresh way.

So far the best of the BAFTA fare. Also very striking is the disturbing poster – the best I’ve seen in a long while – which takes the all-American idealism of Wyeth and Hopper (the first half of the film derives its colour palette from Hopper), takes the all-American idealism of Wyeth and Hopper – and shakes it the fuck up, torching the Dream.

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Andrew Wyeth – Christina’s World (1948)

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Edward Hopper – House with Dead Trees (1932)

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Grant Wood – American Gothic (1930)

The roots of the Brexit

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Picking up from my post in the run-up to the Brexit vote about Democracy, Control & Project Fantasy I see the roots of yesterday’s dark shock as being in the same realm –  the fundamental weakness of British democracy due to lack of proportional representation.

David Cameron offered the in/out referendum in January 2013 to appease members of his own party and keep the Conservatives yoked together in the run-up to the May 2015 general election. If the First-past-the-post voting system was not so inimicable to the third party and below, we could be looking at a much fairer and more democratic landscape in the UK.

The tension in the Tory party is down to the fact that it is not really a single party. There could be a centrist conservative party and a more right-wing one.

Likewise on the Left, the Labour Party is forever jumping through hoops to get round the fact it is not really a single party. It too could exist as a Socialist party and another Social Democrat one.

And that would still leave room for a Liberal party in the centre ground, as well as narrower/more focused parties from the Greens to UKIP making up a healthier, more diverse offering.

Instead we are looking at a riven Conservative Party, a leaderless Labour Party, a destroyed Liberal Party and what was a disenfranchised UKIP, whose followers have now taken revenge.

The way many Tories in particular (largely the ones that went on to back the Leave campaign) stifled and undermined the last UK referendum (May 2011) on voting reform was disgusting and ultimately very damaging as yesterday proved.

Brexit

I’m still absorbing yesterday’s dark news. Keeping these to capture the feeling…

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Democracy, Control & Project Fantasy

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Yesterday’s Any Questions on BBC Radio 4 was a special edition in the wake of the murder of Jo Cox. There was no studio audience and the panel was made up of commentators rather than politicians. What cheered my heart to some degree, in the midst of a moronic and deceitful referendum and a tragic assassination, was that two disparate journalists, Polly Toynbee of The Guardian and Peter Oborne of the Daily Mail, emphasised the desperate need for voting reform and some meaningful form of proportional representation.

I have voted in every election in my adult life – for 34 years – until the recent London mayoral election which I did not turn out for because I didn’t care for either of the main candidates. In those 42 years I have never elected a single person. Because I’m a liberal by nature, though even when I’ve voted otherwise/tactically, as in May 2015, I’ve still made no difference.

In Anita Anand’s Any Answers phone-in after the programme an MP’s chief of staff rang in and threw away that great cliche that in our democracy we “can always vote them out”. But we can’t. I haven’t been able to.

We have a highly overrated ‘democracy’ in which elections have boiled down to become focused on a tiny minority of swing voters in marginal seats.

We have an increasingly disempowering ‘democracy’ in which a party like UKIP gets millions of votes but one seat only, gets three times as many votes as the SNP but 1/56th of the representation in Parliament. How should those millions of UKIP voters feel in the wake of that most depressing election? I’ve no particular sympathy for the UKIP perspective but I don’t believe their supporters’ votes should be without value or real meaning.

As I was walking along the river in Winchester yesterday evening I spotted a Leave campaign poster at the back of an affluent house, with a URL  including the words “take control”. I would contend that even if we took back sovereignty from the EU we would continue to have no real control. At least ‘we the people’ would not. We the politicians, many of whom are elected on well under 50% of the vote, indeed many on under 30%, may gain even more unearned control and fundamentally undemocratic power.

UK democracy has been severely wounded and bleeding out long before the horrendous murder of Jo Cox, by all accounts a representative of great integrity, selfless conviction and beautiful character. Her death is tragic. Her killer’s state of mind is sadly poisonous. The referendum debate is toxic with hate and mendacity. I’ll go vote on Thursday – but with a deep sense of disempowerment and little feeling of hope…

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