Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Omagh bombing, a day on which, according to BBC correspondent Denis Murray: "the clocks in Ireland stopped". In many ways it’s hard to believe that so much time has passed, but somehow the clocks have moved forward and Omagh and Northern Ireland have moved on too. This is not to say that there are no divisions left, no tensions or disagreements. On the contrary, Northern Ireland is still in many ways a divided society, and people here, perhaps like people everywhere, have long memories.
I suppose what 15 years has given this place is a measure of hope – something that seemed in very short supply in the immediate aftermath of the Omagh tragedy. There’s also a willingness to see potential in a place which for so long had little sense of a future. Nothing has illustrated the way this society has moved forward than Northern Ireland’s hosting of the World Police and Fire Games during the first ten days of this month. Although numbers of visitors to Northern Ireland have increased in the years since the troubles ended, it has been remarkable to see so many people from across the globe here at one time.
There’s a segment in the film Chariots of Fire in which the hymn Fight the Good Fight is sung. The fighting referred to is of course not the sort of fighting that Northern Ireland has seen its share of across the years, and the portion of the hymn most relevant to that film - and to Ireland now - asks us to "run the straight race through god’s good grace, lift up thine eyes and seek his face".
Lord of all, help us to do the best we can to continue to move forward in our lives, run a good race and meet you at our journey’s end. Amen