The Omagh Bomb Memorial
or "Garden of Light"

by artist Seán Hillen and landscape architect Desmond Fitzgerald
This project called for a design team of artist and landscape architect to produce an 'integrated approach'.

This web-page was intended initially to present the visual art element of the project in order to aid its development.
It will be updated over time to more fully describe the complete memorial.

NEWS: The mirror system is now operating brightly.
Recent logistics allowed a planned mirror to be installed, giving a direct view into the sunlight from the garden and a bright visual effect.
Click here to download a short movie showing the sunlight from the garden lighting the Memorial.

As it becomes visible in direct sunlight, prospective visitors may wish to aim for a sunny day to see the effect.
The photo below shows the ideal position from which to view and photograph the memorial,
looking directly into the beams of sunlight which are directed into the heart via a mirror in the gable corner behind it..

Information on the Omagh Bombing at Wikipedia

(Further resources and other sources are linked further down this page..)

Above :
The light effect in the heart. This is sunlight brought from the Memorial Garden 300 yds. away.

Below: cutting the middle layer of the heart at Tyrone Crystal. Below right: The 31 mirrors in the Memorial Garden.

Below: aerial view of the area, showing an early proposal for the lightpath from the garden to the glass pillar.



Below: an impression of the Memorial Garden and the mirrors.

Above: schematic of the light path at the garden
A: The Sun, whose light is tracked by B: The moving mirrors, which directs it constantly via C: an array of small mirrors,
onto D: the 31 small mirrors on poles.

Above: early garden plan.

Below Left:some of the 31 mirrors seen reflected in the pool

The structural design of the obelisk




Above: A closer view of the crystal glass heart.


Below: close-up view of the light seen through the heart in sunshine


Above: Architect Desmond FitzGerald with the first engineering model of the pillar.

Below : The spiral pattern used as the basis for a crystal glass layer inside the 'heart'.
This pattern has a history of use in ancient art to represent 'the descent of the Divine to the World, and the reverse journey'

Above and left: The original proposal 'artist's impressions' of the pillar viewed in the street- click to enlarge

Above: the team at the pillar installation

Above: the reflecting pool and 31 mirrors in the garden


Above: the garden, shortly after being completed, seen at dusk.

Left: another view of the pillar



: the pillar seen at night

Below: the start of the inscription in the Memorial Garden:
"BEAR IN MIND THESE DEAD" from a poem by John Hewitt






The site of the explosion is marked by a pillar, made of 6 tonnes of ultra-clear 'laboratory' glass, 4.5m high.
Near the top, inside appears a 3-dimensional 'heart' in a faceted cut-glass style.
The suggested image is that of the heart suspended high in a frozen beam of light, representing love.

The approach to the artwork was that it could remember and honour the the victims and offer something to the wider community by attempting to simply, uninhibitedly and vividly express the enormity of the loss and the natural feeling, and the outpouring of compassion for them.

The idea is a gesture towards redeeming human values in the face of the atrocity.

Omagh actually receives the least amount of sunshine in Ireland. Because of its position, t
he bomb site is more often than not in the shade.

In the Memorial Garden, about 300 yds. around the corner, large mirrors positioned by computer control track the sun constantly, and when it shines pour beams of sunlight via nearby arrays, onto 31 pole-mounted small mirrors, one for each life lost.

These are directed to send the light down the street where another array of mirrors bends it around the corner, and via one small mirror mounted on the nearby gable into the heart inside the obelisk.

There is an 'ideal' viewing point on the opposite pavement, where the viewer can look through the pillar and back up the beam of sunlight; as seen in the photo.

The 'pillar', the final form of which was designed, as well as other elements, by landscape architect Desmond Fitzgerald who is also responsible for the Memorial Garden, is influenced both by obelisks and cenotaphs.

On the larger scale, the work also draws attention to our place in and under the cycles of the cosmos and also to the optimistic-but-true reminder that even in the dark we know that the Sun will rise again.

It has been constructed by a complex process including laminating, i.e. attaching consecutive slabs of glass together under extreme pressure and heat.
New techniques were devised by Carey Glass Ltd. to laminate the huge pieces of glass.

This 'stack' of glass was assembled on site and wrapped, on its sides and top with a thick layer of toughened glass to form a protective outer shell to the obelisk.

In some of the inner layers are cut holes with polished edges, designed so they build in layers to form an oval cavity. In the middle three of them the heart shape is mounted, in a complex framework made of a number of different glasses, some of which Tyrone Crystal have hand-cut with a complex pattern. (see illustration) It is incorporated into the pillar using modern technology.
The whole structure is completely transparent and is an unprecedented application of glass technology.

The 'heart' is the ancient and universal verbal and visual symbol of the 'core' or essential element of things, including the Human Being, of compassion, and of fidelity.

In between the halves of of the faceted heart, (which is based on the cutting of diamonds), is a layer cut with a pattern based on the fibbonaci spiral, as seen in the centre of sunflowers, for instance, in spiral galaxies and elsewhere in nature.

This pattern has an ancient history of being used to represent the descent of the Divine to the World, and the reverse journey.

Though apparently complex, the moving-mirror technology is already existing. Sun-tracking mirrors are known as known as 'heliostats', and for this applicartion a new extremely accurate system was developed by German experts, Egis GmbH.

Developed from high-end positioners for satellite dishes, they are driven by a small box of electronics programmed to track the sun daily for the next forty years. They operate very quietly for a fraction of a second every 20 seconds to keep in position.
They are very sturdy and reliable and have been in use for years already at many sites.

Since the sunlight is merely reflected by flat mirrors rather than concentrated, there is no risk or health and safety issue.

Press reports from 10th Anniversary and unveiling of Memorial:

photos by Getty photographer PeterMacDiarmid short BBC TV news report longer BBC TV news report

RTÉ TV news report
RTÉ TV 'Nationwide' report

Irish Times article by Fintan O'Toole Sunday Tribune article by Eimear McKeith
BBC TV Report "Omagh memorial obelisk put up"

'CIRCA' Art Journal article on the competition and this entry The original press release announcing the competition

bloggers: pimlicoarts on the design
and apublishersblog writes it "moves memorials onto a new level"

June 09:
The recent spell of good weather allowed work to upgrade and adjust the mirror system. A new mirror nearby now allows the viewer to see the sunlight directly through the pillar and heart, producing a very bright effect.

October 08:
The mirror system is operating, after long delays due to the weather.
Further adjustment and improvement will take place in the coming weeks.

August 08:
The monument has been unveiled.

July 08:
The pillar has been installed.

February '08:
A one-fifth scale model of the pillar has been built. (see photos below, left)
Building wo
rk has commenced on the site.


The competition and Design Brief:
short article explaining the design competition

Download the design brief PDF (c. 900k) here

You can download our full stage 1 proposal document as a pdf here.

Further Information: Web-links related to the Omagh Bomb:

A map of the immediate area

Wikipedia article on Omagh Town

Wikipedia article on the Omagh Bomb

The 'official' exhaustive archive of the event

The BBC's page with many links and items, including the playable 'Panorama- "Who bombed Omagh?"'

The BBC's news item on the day

The most prominent independent web-page with many pages and statements from families etc.

The CAIN (academic) archive on the event


Partners in the project:

Pilkington Glass Ltd.- glass supply

Carey Glass Ltd. - building the pillar

McGrory Contractors
- site contractors

Billings Design Associates - expertise

Egis GmbH - heliostats

Tyrone Crystal Ltd. - crystal glass

McGuire Glass - glass model

White Young Green - engineering & q/s

Seal Systems Ireland and

Seal Craft - sealants and sealing

Barrett Electrical - Electrical contractors

Thanks for help and advice:

IPIG Ltd. - glass engineers

Jeronim Tisljar - glass sculptor

Canonbury Resins Ltd. - acrylic resin

Resin & Glass Ltd. - acrylic resin

Dr. Peter Gallagher - Astrophysicist,
Trinity College Dublin

Dublin Glass Centre - glass for model




"The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it"
(John 1:5)
(from the inscription in the Memorial Garden)