There is “a will” among the Government to respond positively to a UK inquiry into the Omagh bombing though a “precise mechanism” has to be worked out, according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin.
Speaking the day after the British Government announced an inquiry into the 1998 explosion, the Tánaiste said further discussion with the UK was required.
“Then the issue for us is, full co-operation with the UK inquiry or do we have a parallel inquiry?”, he told reporters in Belfast on Friday following meetings with the North’s political parties.
“These are issues our systems have to work through. There are legal complexities but I think we can resolve them. We already have dealt with that in terms of legislation passed already which facilitates the transfer of documentation to inquiries in the North and vice versa.”
‘It’s been retraumatising’: Families of six men shot dead by British soldiers seek truth 50 years on
The Real IRA attack killed 29 people, including a pregnant woman with twins when a car bomb exploded in the Co Tyrone town on August 15th, 1998.
Northern Secretary Chris-Heaton Harris told the House of Commons on Thursday he was establishing an independent statutory inquiry to investigate if the atrocity could have been prevented.
Following his meeting with Mr Martin on Friday, Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said he had urged him to hold a “similar process in parallel” with the UK inquiry while DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson said the Tánaiste was told his Government must “step up to the mark”.
Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aidan in the blast and took legal action over a decade ago for an investigation, has spoken of the “huge cross-Border element” as the bomb was transported from the Republic, “so the Government in Dublin would also need to talk to the families”.
Asked by reporters on Friday if he accepted that the South has questions to answer in relation to the attack, the Tánaiste responded:
“We’ve already had a review, the McNally review in respect of the Omagh bomb. We’re open to any further inquiries and investigations and we will co-operate fully. And that’s the purpose of an inquiry.”
The terms of reference for the UK inquiry have not been released and Mr Martin said they would await these before deciding on what course of action to take.
“The fundamental point is that there is a will in the Republic and in the Government to respond positively to this announcement of an inquiry. It’s the precise formal mechanism we have to work out,” he added.
He also criticised the approach of the UK government to Troubles-related cases, branding it “inconsistent”.
A controversial ‘legacy’ bill that aims to “draw a line” under the conflict by shutting down all inquests, criminal and civil cases and offering a conditional amnesty to perpetrators, is currently going through Parliament.
Mr Heaton-Harris told MPs that because the Omagh bomb happened after the Belfast Agreement in April, 1998, it does not fall under the scope of its proposed legacy legislation, and a fresh investigation can therefore take place.
“On the wider point, I had pointed out to the Secretary of State this is somewhat inconsistent with the legacy Bill that is currently going through Westminster, which we oppose and strongly communicated our views in relation to that legacy Bill,” said the Tánaiste.
“In our view, as we saw recently in terms of the court decisions in respect of the killing of Aidan McAnespie, that right up to now, cases can be brought to closure, verdicts can still be issued.”