Fear and loathing once more

It’s difficult to put into words the anger and distress that is emanating from Omagh and the surrounding areas this week.

On Wednesday evening I attended a significant victims conference held in the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh that featured Terry Waite, Richard Moore and Baroness May Blood. It was organised by the Omagh Support & Self Help Group (OSSHG), founded in the wake of the Omagh bomb and which has within its membership, 170 victims of the August ’98 atrocity.

Among them is Michael Gallagher, father of Aidan Gallagher, one of the 29 victims. As he took me around the exhibition entitled ‘Remembering the past – Looking to the future ‘, he pointed to the 43 banners on display. Each one carrying the story of 43 people from the last 43 years of our history. I began to read a few.

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The DPP and me

Tonight was my first experience of covering a local District Policing Partnership (DPP) meeting as a journalist.

Driving through the wind and rain over the atrocious Fintona to Trillick road in absolute darkness, at times more akin to tarred sand dunes, I eventually found the venue in Trillick for October’s monthly meeting of the Omagh DPP. (No thanks to directions to completely different venue from a colleague who actually lives in the village).

I had my homework done before hand, arriving having already digested the six month DPP report, which is normally handed out on arrival at the meeting. But a diligent reporter I work with managed to procure a copy earlier, which definitely helped.

I know already from experience of covering health trust, education and library board meetings etc, that it is always better going into a meeting knowing what you are looking for story-wise, rather than arriving cold with a wait-and-see approach. Although, the content of DPP meetings is infinitely easier to digest compared with jargon fuelled health trust/ELB board meetings. That is no doubt down to the fact that the whole ethos between the DPP is public participation and police scrutiny, however there wasn’t too much of either tonight.

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So long Section 44

The end of Section 44 in the PSNI’s armoury was treated to a typically mixed reception from either end of the political spectrum, ranging from something nearing relief in nationalist circles to regret from unionist representatives.

The controversial section of the Terrorism Act 2000 allowed police officers to enact stop and search powers on a mere hunch. However in January it was found to contravene Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to a private life by the European Court of the same acronym.

Perhaps nowhere will be as glad to see the back of Section 44 as Strabane. The Strabane Policing District has spent most of the last few years hovering around the top of the table of Section 44 hotspots across the North.

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