Policing board's 'wisdom' lauded

 

The Northern Secretary has praised the Policing Board's "wisdom of Solomon" after it reached agreement on how to proceed on the controversial Omagh bomb investigation.

Dr John Reid said the board had "risen magnificently" to the challenge of finding a way forward on a complex and sensitive issue.

"The whole community has cause to be grateful for the mature and responsible leadership that has been shown . . . But in all of this let nothing detract from the guilt of those who planted that bomb in Omagh. What everyone wants to see are those murderers brought to justice. That determination is undiminished," he concluded.

Following several days of negotiations the 19 board members on Thursday night agreed unanimously to appoint a senior English police officer, Det Chief Supt Philip Jones from Merseyside, to jointly oversee the investigation with the current senior investigating officer, Det Supt Brian McArthur.

The investigation has been an issue between the PSNI Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, and the Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O'Loan, who accused him of a lack of leadership in her report into the investigation.

Sir Ronnie yesterday welcomed the board's recommendations, describing them as a "realistic way ahead" and "auguring well for the future of the new policing arrangements".

"I am pleased at the unequivocal conclusion that the terrible atrocity perpetrated in Omagh on August 15th, 1998, could not have been prevented. This has been the PSNI position throughout."

The board had recognised the dedication and continued commitment of the PSNI officers on the investigation team whose removal would have been "to the serious detriment" of the investigation.

Mrs O'Loan also welcomed the board's proposals, which she said had taken account of her recommendations.

Although she had "reservations", she accepted that the proposals represented a "genuine attempt to move the murder investigation forward".

The Minister for Foreign Affairs welcomed the board's conclusions, saying they were "essential to progress in the Omagh investigation". He was looking forward to a close and constructive relationship between the Garda, the senior external officer and the investigation team.

The Police Association last night announced it was considering taking legal action against the ombudsman's report.