Omagh bombing inquiries on both sides of Border would not ‘make sense’, says Tánaiste

Northern Secretary announces terms of reference for UK inquiry and calls on Dublin to follow suit

The Tánaiste has said it does not make sense to have inquiries into the Omagh bombing on both sides of the Border.

Micheál Martin, also Minister for Foreign Affairs, was speaking after Northern Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris announced the terms of reference for a statutory inquiry into the atrocity and suggested the Irish Government should set up its own.

“In our view, one inquiry is optimal, two separate inquiries to me doesn’t make sense because there would be clear overlap and duplication and maybe crossing each other,” said Mr Martin during a visit to Belfast on Wednesday.

Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, died as a result of the car bombing on August 15th, 1998.


The independent inquiry to be established by the UK government will focus on key issues identified in a Belfast High Court judgment that ruled it was potentially plausible that the attack by the Real IRA could have been prevented.

The inquiry is to be chaired by a former senior judge, Lord Turnbull, and will have the power to compel the production of documents and to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath.

The inquiry will examine the adequacy of the measures taken by UK state authorities, including the police, security forces and intelligence and security agencies, to disrupt dissident republicans who had been involved in attacks from December 1997 up to and including the Omagh bombing.

It will assess whether that approach changed following the Belfast Agreement of April 1998. It will also examine alleged intelligence-sharing failures between the UK and Irish authorities in the year and a half leading up to the bombing.

It will further test an allegation made by a former senior police officer, Norman Baxter, that detectives investigating previous dissident attacks were not given access to full intelligence information on suspects. It will also examine claims around information allegedly passed to the security forces by a state agent known as Kevin Fulton in the months prior to the Omagh attack.

In his 2021 judgment in Belfast High Court, Mr Justice Horner directly recommended that the UK government carry out an investigation into alleged security failings in the lead-up to the bombing.

While having no jurisdiction to order the Irish Government to act on the matter, the judge also urged authorities in the South to establish their own inquiry in light of his findings.

Mr Heaton-Harris said the Omagh bombing was “a cruel atrocity carried out, not just on the people of Omagh, but on all those in Northern Ireland who supported the peace process”.

He added: “I urge the Irish Government to now explain what consideration it has given to the setting up of an investigation in Ireland to discharge its obligations under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, in line with the clear direction of the High Court.”

Mr Martin on Wednesday rejected the suggestion that the Government had not done enough to pursue those responsible for Troubles era crimes.

“There is no amnesty in the Republic and there never has been an amnesty given in the Republic,” he said, adding that people were convicted in the State and imprisoned in relation to the Omagh bombing.

“The gardaí and the Director of Public Prosecutions are independent of government. No direction has ever been given to either not to pursue cases that arose from the Troubles and not to prosecute, those are the facts.”

The Government, he said, had “made it very clear that we would be fully co-operative” with any inquiry into the Omagh bombing.

“We have mechanisms, we have changed the law in the Republic on a number of occasions to facilitate the provision of information that the Republic may have in respect of certain crimes,” he said. “Our view is we’ll see the terms of reference and then we’ll work to ensure that we contribute to that inquiry.” – PA