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 at 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.Read More
On 25th April 2009 Stephen Travers and Des McAlea of The Miami Showband attended the opening of the new headquarters of The Omagh Support and Self-Help Group.
The text of Stephen Travers’ speech.
“It’s a great privilege to publicly acknowledge the wonderful humanitarian work of “The Omagh Support and Self-Help Group”. That so many of you give so much of yourselves to others is proof indeed that out of such a terrible event can come so much good. I believe God sends the heaviest burdens only to those who can bear them and He surely recognises the extraordinary strength of the people of Omagh. The survivors of The Miami Showband incident have had thirty-four years to try to understand and come to terms with the slaughter of the innocent. It’s an ongoing and unremitting effort but we will continue to demand accountability, rather than retribution, from those who ordered and facilitated the events of July 31st 1975. People must deal with the memory of terrible events in their own individual way. Some go it alone but for many, support, especially from those who understand and share their pain, is invaluable. The tragedy that befell this lovely town on August 15th 1998 is surely an enormous weight to bear. Such a weight can manifest itself in many ways; loneliness, questions such as “why”, what if” or “if only” can haunt us. Perhaps even survivor’s guilt can keep us awake at night. Lives can be frozen in time by an overwhelming and understandable desire for justice or sometimes, even revenge. How sweet it would be to throw off these great burdens; any one of them heavy enough to crush the best of us. I thank God that the desire for revenge has never been an issue for us for it would only be a useless un-rewarding achievement, a disappointing anti-climax and a hollow victory if realised. I believe that the memory of the Omagh tragedy can best be served by your own extraordinary example that such an outrage served only to strengthen rather than divide your community; exposing the futility and abject failure of violence. I believe you have been, and will continue to be, a shining light for all of us, especially as that light is focused on the kindness, love and support you have given to each other through the years. I believe that will be the most important memorial to your loved ones and perhaps Omagh’s great legacy.”
The Miami Showband.
The Miami Showband charity single Joy To The World.
The Miami perform Joy To The World in aid of The Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, Africa. The Institute is the only hospital in East Africa that provides chemotherapy free of charge. Also included are The Huruma School for Disabled Children and Children In Crossfire. In a poor country children with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. Thanks to Stephen Travers, Gerry Brown, Ray Millar, Johnny Fean, Richard Moore.
The Dunamaise Arts Centre
Friday October 30th at 8.00 p.m.
in association with
The Cuisle Centre Cancer Support Group.
In aid of
The Cuisle Centre Cancer Support Group.
The Miami Showband
“The last of the great original Irish Showbands”
with special guest
(Formerly known as Ryan O’Rian)
Book on-line at www.dunamaise.ie
Box Office: 057 866 3355Read More