Call for public inquiry into Omagh bombing

Families condemn Irish and British governments over response to fresh information on attack

RUC officers survey the aftermath of the  Omagh bombing. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

RUC officers survey the aftermath of the Omagh bombing. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times


Relatives of those killed in the Omagh bombing of 1998 have demanded a full public and cross-Border inquiry into the atrocity which claimed the lives of 29 including a woman pregnant with twins.

They said failure to uncover the truth and to deliver justice by securing convictions against the bombers was a stain on the records of the British and Irish governments. Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter were singled out for stinging criticism by Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aidan in the bombing.

Speaking in advance of the 15th anniversary of the Real IRA attack on the Co Tyrone town, Mr Gallagher of the Omagh Support and Self-Help Group revealed that the relatives’ group had commissioned “a comprehensive factual report” which had been presented to the British and Irish governments last year.

They have yet to receive a response from either.

“This report highlights significant failings by both the British and Irish governments. These included failings to share intelligence both nationally and across borders which could have prevented the Omagh bomb,” he said.

The report is based on 4,000 emails written by FBI intelligence agent David Rupert, who also worked for MI5 and in the Republic with the knowledge of the government.

Mr Gallagher revealed elements of the Rupert emails which he said proved that the Garda and former RUC had intelligence that could have prevented the Real IRA attack.

He claimed Mr Kenny was supportive of the Omagh relatives when in opposition.

“Sadly I have to say that since he was elected Taoiseach he has declined to meet us.”

Mr Shatter, he added, was disappointing in his attitude towards the new information being made available to the Government.

The Omagh families were strongly supported by former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan, who first compiled a critical report on the initial RUC investigation into the bombing.

Amnesty International also backed the public inquiry call, as has a former assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Bob Quick.

Baroness O’Loan said the Omagh families had compiled “significant new information which ought to be professionally investigated”.

She added: “The new information is a cause for enormous concern.”

Road blocks should have been ordered on the morning of the Omagh bombing, she said, adding that the granting of a public inquiry would “meet the rights of the Omagh relatives and help in the wider fight against international terrorism”.

Patrick Corrigan, director of Amnesty in Northern Ireland, said: “Serious questions remain about alleged state failures. Families are still seeking the full truth 15 years after the attack.”

Mr Gallagher said the failure to uncover the truth about the dissident bombing of Omagh remained “a blot” on the records of both governments.

“Should the state fail to do so it is our view that they will be failing in complying with their obligations under Article 2 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights,” he said.

The new information, Mr Gallagher said, was professionally collated by solicitors and passed to the British and Irish governments in June and July 2012. Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers was also given the report in February this year.

The report contains new information, much of it based on the emails of Mr Rupert, who infiltrated dissident republicans in the late 1990s and warned of the likelihood of a bomb attack on Omagh. The evidence made it clear, Mr Gallagher asserted, that the British and Irish governments and their agencies should have been able to prevent the bombing. They failed to do so thanks to a series of intelligence and communications failures at intra-agency, national and international levels.

Baroness O’Loan said it was important to remember that Mr Rupert’s intelligence was written for the benefit of governments “which have not acted properly”.

The Department of Justice released a statement last night saying: “The Minister is currently in the process of finalising his consideration of the issues that have been raised by the group. He hopes to be in a position to conclude this process soon and once a conclusion has been reached he will communicate directly with the Omagh group.”

The families were supported yesterday by Independent TD Mattie McGrath.