John Azah OBE, Michael Gallagher (who lost his son in the Omagh bomb), former Beirut hostage Terry Waite, Stephen Travers (survivor of the Miami Showband Massacre) and Clive McCombe (who lost his wife Anne in the Omagh bomb)

By Shelley Marsden

MIAMI Showband massacre survivor Steve Travers and former hostage Terry Waite last week gave their support to victims still scarred by the Omagh bombing and other survivors of terrorism.

Omagh Support and Self Help Group hosted the annual International Victims of Terrorism Conference on June 12-13, as a partner in the Network of Associations of Victims of Terrorism (NAVT).

This is the first time the event, which took place at the Ulster American Folk Park and whose theme this year was Lessons Learned, was hosted in Ireland.

Steve Travers opened the ceremony. He said, “To deliver the opening speech was one of the greatest honours I’ve ever received and I am grateful to The Omagh Support and Self Help Group for that.”

“I struck up an instant rapport with Terry Waite and we talked at length, not only about the incidents, but their root causes and why it’s essential that they be understood and tackled as a priority.”

One of the surviving members of the Miami Showband killings at Bushkill, Co Down on July 31, 1975, Travers said of the event, “I learned an awful lot. I thought it would just be people getting stuff off their chests, but people really do help each other – it was an extremely worthwhile exercise, bringing pressure to bear on various governments around the world.”

As part of his very moving address to delegates about his experiences of terrorism first-hand, Travers spoke of a recent visit to Ground Zero in New York:

“I have always, in so far as I could, acted independently, ploughed my own furrow, made my own decisions and acted alone in my personal battle with terrorism. I reasoned that each unique experience required a unique response!”

“However, two weeks ago, I visited The World Trade Centre in New York: The new skyscrapers are impressive, the memorial, located on the site of the former Twin Towers, is certainly impressive but what impressed me most was the world-wide community that is now attached to the little church that played such a vital role in the rescue effort following the 9/11 terrorist attack.”

“More than any other memorial to that terrible event, St. Paul’s collection of badges, banners, emblems and messages of support is, for me, the focus of genuine empathy and unity with the victims of that awful crime. Today, I realise that you are the embodiment of St. Paul’s church and I am a willing convert.”

A total of thirty one people (including two unborn children) died in the Omagh bombing, almost 14 years ago now. The worst atrocity in the history of the Troubles, it affected the lives of hundreds of people.

The victims conference saw victims and survivors of terrorism throughout Europe and the U.S.share their experiences and discuss best practice around the EU on the legal, health-care and social and psychological support for Victims of Terrorism from public and private organisations, expressing solidarity in particular to those currently suffering in Syria.

Delegates to Omagh visited the Memorial Garden and the Window of Hope in Omagh Library.

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