Charles meets Omagh bomb victims

The Prince of Wales greets nurses in the palliative care unit at Omagh Hospital (Niall Carson/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The Prince of Wales has laid a floral tribute at the site of one of the biggest mass killings of the Northern Ireland conflict.

He and the Duchess of Cornwall visited a memorial garden dedicated to the 29 people and two unborn babies killed by the Real IRA Omagh car bomb blast in August 1998.

There were emotional scenes as they met paramedics, firefighters and police officers who had to deal with the carnage.

Charles and Camilla walked up the main street of the Co Tyrone market town past the site of the blast.

The shopping street was lined with well-wishers who cheered the royal couple and waved flags.

Paramedic John Taylor from Dungannon was one of the first to respond in 1998.

He said: “You walk up the street and you can still see the scene. Even when I drive through Omagh here I can still see the scene.

“We should talk more about it, it takes the pressure off.

“We work with trauma every day and this definitely stands out.

“The atmosphere that day, there was an eerie silence, you could hear sirens and firemen shouting different instructions and people but there was an eerie silence in the whole place.

“Every time I drive through it – it brings me back.”

Charles also met hospital nurses who treated dozens of victims. All bar two were stabilised.

He toured Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex, which opened a year ago.

Two decades ago he visited the old hospital, which was at the centre of the emergency response following the blast.

Later on Wednesday, the prince was meeting relatives of those who died in the dissident republican car bombing.

Joann McCullagh was a staff nurse in the intensive care ward on the day of the attack and said she worked at the “coal face”.

She told Charles about her role.

“We worked tirelessly throughout the day and night, dealing with the very traumatically injured patients,” she said.

“The relatives were also looking for their loved ones.

“We as a group of people worked very closely together to support each other in the dark days that followed.”

At the hospital, the prince also met palliative care patients and Eamie Gormley, who is undergoing kidney dialysis, and they discussed the length of time the procedure took.

Charles asked her if “copious” cups of tea were available during the long wait.

He was greeted by cheering healthcare workers as he walked around.

Royal visit to Northern Ireland Credit: Royal visit to Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein’s West Tyrone MP Orfhlaith Begley and DUP leader Arlene Foster were among those there to welcome the prince.

Mrs Foster said she was pleased Charles was meeting the Omagh bomb relatives.

He unveiled a plaque marking the official hospital opening and expressed admiration for all the staff.