Northern Ireland

Omagh bomb relative makes 'difficult' NI visit decision

Omagh bomb scene Image copyright PA
Image caption Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed in the 1998 attack

"I hate them. I know it's a strong word. I hate what they've done."

For Donna-Maria Barker, the loss of her 12-year-old son in the 1998 Omagh bomb is still searingly raw.

James Barker was one of 29 people - including a woman pregnant with twins - killed in the Real IRA attack in 1998.

But, despite the pain of the memory, Mrs Barker will return to Northern Ireland - and Omagh - this weekend for a service dedicated to "children of the Troubles".

The service takes place in Fivemiletown Methodist Church in County Tyrone, on Sunday.

It will include the dedication of a quilt to Alan Jack, the Troubles' youngest victim, who died aged five months after a bomb in Strabane in 1972.

Ms Barker, who is originally from Londonderry but lives in England, will dedicate a patch of the memorial quilt to her son - but said she will also visit the town where her son died.

She is being hosted by the organisation, the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF).

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Donna-Maria Barker pictured in 2001, with Michael Gallagher (left) whose son was also killed in the bomb

She said it was a "very difficult decision and it is going to be hard".

"I am so lucky that my youngest son, Oliver-Tristan, will accompany me. I'm doing it for James, only James, not for myself," she told BBC Radio Foyle.

No one has been convicted over the bombing and Ms Barker said she believes that she will never see justice in her lifetime.

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Media caption'I hate them and what they've done to my life'

Earlier this year, relatives of the victims announced they would sue the PSNI's chief constable for failings they believed allowed the killers to escape justice.

"It's very sad, but if I lose that anger in me, I lose the fight for James. And, I know being a Catholic myself, that you have to forgive and forget. No, no.

"It'd have been different if my child had have been seriously ill, or knocked over, or killed by a car or something like that.

"But this was vicious. They wanted to maim and kill and I hate them. I hate what they've done to my life and my kids' life.

"In my short life, I don't think I'll ever get justice."

That anger is something that Ms Barker also directs at herself.

"People will say, '19 years, life goes on'. Life doesn't go on. But, I have to live with it, what I did. To take him to Ireland, to give him a better quality of life - I have to live with that every single day of my life.

"Yes, I do blame myself. And that's why my life will be in a rut. I can't go forward."

However, the memory of James, and the encouragement of her children, is what helped her decide to return to Northern Ireland this weekend.

"I was at the grave yesterday, it was my birthday, and I stayed for about an hour, an hour and a half.

"My children said, 'Mum, you have to do it, you have to do it for James'. And he will live on in that quilt."

Director of Services at SEFF Kenny Donaldson said the organisation was "honoured" to host the Barker family and many other families.

He said the memorial quilt would include 62 patches dedicated to "individual innocents murdered through terrorism - Protestant, Roman Catholic and Dissenter and which contains a special central tribute to children murdered through terrorism".

He added: "We will also be working with individual families in enabling them to meet with people and/or visit places which have significance with the injustices, loss and memories which they hold.

"Our core aim is to contribute towards bringing about a level of healing for those who have been so grievously wronged."

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