Call for inquiry into Omagh bombing

Mon, Jun 18, 2012, 01:00

A public inquiry into the infamous Omagh bombing would uncover “unnerving secrets” of security force failings, one of those bereaved by the atrocity said.

Michael Gallagher and other Omagh victims presented Northern Ireland secretary of state Owen Paterson with a specially commissioned report claiming the atrocity could have been prevented.

The families campaigning for a cross-border inquiry will now seek meetings with the Chief Constable Matt Baggott and justice minister David Ford to brief them on the consultants’ report into the case.

Mr Gallagher said both governments would continue to face calls for a public inquiry and any refusal to respond positively to the new evidence would be brought to the courts.

Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were murdered in the Real IRA atrocity in 1998.

Mr Gallagher said: “I think that the Government are going to have some difficulty with granting a public inquiry into Omagh because it will unearth some very unnerving secrets.

“But we feel, and we told the Secretary of State, that there will be uncomfortable truths for both the British and Irish governments.

“But that is nothing to what the families have had to suffer. We feel that Omagh should come to an end, I don’t take any comfort in standing here today in criticising the Government.

“I’d rather get on with our lives but the government are the people that’s holding this process up.” His comments came after a meeting with the secretary of state at Hillsborough Castle.

The families said their report brought together all available evidence on the case and showed authorities on both sides of the Border could have prevented the car bombing.

No-one has been successfully criminally convicted of the attack in the County Tyrone town.

Mr Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the bombing, said families had yet to receive a response to requests for a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

And while the content of their report cannot be made public for legal reasons, Mr Gallagher said the findings pointed to state failings over the attack.

He described the meeting with the secretary of state as constructive, but said Mr Paterson noted that the bombing was still under investigation.

Mr Gallagher said the existence of live investigations had not prevented the setting up of the Leveson inquiry into press standards.

He added: “We have waited 14 years. There are no reasons for this not happening.” Mr Gallagher said the secretary of state promised to examine the report.

And Christopher Stanley of the London-based human rights group British Irish Rights Watch, which is supporting the families, said his organisation would be pressing for a swift response from government.

“I think what we want at this point is a timescale from the Secretary of State, the ball is in his court. We can’t have this dragging on,” said Mr Stanley.

“We’d like some response from this office by the end of the parliamentary recess as to how they’re going to progress this and who they are going to discuss it with.

“And we need traction in the south as well from the Taoiseach’s office.

“This cannot go on. British-Irish Rights Watch strongly supports a cross-Border inquiry.”

PA