Omagh (2004) Irish TV Movie on the Omagh Bomb

I have seen a few movies on the Troubles. Some were good, a few were outstanding. Omagh, I’m afraid, isn’t one of them. I’m not saying it isn’t sort of interesting as it explores, more than anything else, the reactions of the people affected by the “Omagh bomb”, namely the families of the victims, the support groups, the police and the politicians. But interesting doesn’t necessarily equal well done. I don’t mind TV productions but I’m not keen on shaky handheld camera, weirdly cut images and pseudo-documentary style. Blood Sunday (here is my review) has a very similar approach but was much better, I thought. Still, I didn’t mind watching it as I have always been interested in Irish history.

Omagh is a little town in Northern Ireland. On Saturday  15 August 1998, a car bomb went off in the town center, killing 29 people and injuring another 220. The beginning of the movie, focusing on one young man, Aiden Gallagher, and his family is very powerful. We know what is going to happen and to see them before the tragedy and knowing one of them is doomed, is quite uncanny. Also the anxious moments after the family hears that there was a bomb and their son and bother doesn’t return are very well done.

The responsible people for the Omagh bomb were the so-called Real IRA, a splinter group of the Provisional IRA whose members were opposed to the peace treaty. The Troubles are such a complicated chapter in Irish history and as much as the movie tries to capture this, for the outsider it stays quite confusing.

That the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Sinn Féin leaders condemned the attack didn’t help the families much. What follows Aiden’s burial, is a close examination of the aftermath of the bombing. Aiden’s father tries to get the help from anyone he can. Politicians and police alike. He joins a support group and together with their members they try to find out who is responsible for the bombing. They look for the individual names. After a while Michael is contacted by a man who was an informant and spying on the Real IRA. He provides him with a list of names. He pretends having given information on the bombing to an intelligence service way before it happened.

Michael tries to pursue this and investigates on his own, confronting the police but to no avail. After a few months he is so down that he has to let go and try to overcome the grief for his son.

Some months later the support group is summoned by the police. An ombudsman tells them that not only did they find proof that the informant told the people in charge about the bomb threat but that the intelligence service had also tried to cover it up. In doing so, evidence that could have led to arrests was lost.

“Bad management and lack of judgment of a senior intelligence officer” was the final verdict of the ombudsman. Sadly there were no consequences.

It makes me feel a bit bad to say that I didn’t like this film. It seems as if I was saying the incident wasn’t horrible. I’d like to emphasize, that this isn’t the case at all. What happened in Omagh is horrible but the way it has been filmed was just not convincing.

10 thoughts on “Omagh (2004) Irish TV Movie on the Omagh Bomb

  1. Guy Savage says:

    Saw this and really liked it. I’d recommend Who Bombed Birmingham if you can track it down.

    • You didn’t mind the handheld camera? I was never sure they did it on purpose. In Bloody Sunday it was obvious it was done for authenticity but here I had my doubts.
      Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Novroz says:

    I can understand why you don’t like it…it’s the same way I don’t like a war movie I didn’t like but many like it (I have forgotten the title already…something similar with gestapo). I am glad you included the trailer…love that Irish accent. I want to watch it simply because I want to hear their accent. the incident was indeed terrible

  3. warmoviebuff says:

    Thanks for the review. I learned something because I knew nothing of this incident. I may watch it just to see whose side I am on – yours or Novroz/Guy. I don’t mind hand held for combat scenes, not so much for other scenes. I have a hard time with British accents, are you telling me this will be worse?

    • You are welcome. I thought it wasn’t easy to understand at all. Not one of the worst but a bit challenging. If you areinterest in Irsh history I’d rather suggest you’d watch Bloody Sunday and of course The Wind that Shakes the Barley. I’ve reviewed them both. One is interesting the other one very nearly a masterpiece (The Wind…)

  4. Novroz says:

    @Warmoviebuff My side? hehe I haven’t watched it yet so I can’t say I like it or hate it…but I sure will love the accent.

    A thick Irish accent can be worst than British. But if I am who is not a native English speaker can understand Irish accent, I am sure you can understand it better than me 😉

    I second Caroline’s opinion on The Wind That Shakes The Barley … a beautiful war movie. (plus beautiful lead actor 😉 )

    • I didn’t get the “on your side bit”. I’m not sure he cares about the looks of the main actor. 🙂
      We are planning a watchalong btw. We pick a movie, send out questions and post our answers on the same day. In a few weeks. How does that sound?
      Any suggestions?

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