Ireland’s two Human Rights Commissions have called for the appointment of a top judge to examine the need for a cross-border public inquiry into the Omagh bombing.
Monica McWilliams of the Six County commission and Maurice Manning of the 26 County commission have urged the Dublin and London governments to review events surrounding the 1998 bombing to see whether a public inquiry is needed.
They said the review should be along the lines of that carried out by retired Canadian Judge Peter Cory when he examined evidence of state collusion in four high-profile murders and recommended public inquiries.
The breakaway Real IRA were blamed for planting the bomb, which had devastating consequences when phoned bomb warnings were not acted upon.
Families of the victims have been calling for such a cross-border inquiry for years following evidence that British forces were in a position to prevent the bombing in the days beforehand, but failed to do so, for reasons still unknown.
“We certainly do not want to do anything that would prejudice any future trials or legal action. But we believe there is enough new material that has emerged which should help the person appointed to decide whether or not the truth about Omagh will be found through a public inquiry,” Mr Manning said.
The unprecedented joint statement by the two human rights chiefs came a day after the end of the 56-day trial of Sean Hoey, the south Armagh man accused by Crown prosecutors of involvement in the Omagh bombing.
At the conclusion of the trial, Hoey’s lawyer warned that a conviction would be a travesty of justice.
The case has seen witnesses beef up their evidence, admissions that exhibits had been interfered with and prosecution witnesses undermining one another.
In particular, the ‘low copy’ DNA evidence was shown to have little credibility in the scientific community. There were also suygestions that other evidence was planted, with several police witnesses exposed as liars.
Mr Pownall said the hope of finding “incontrovertible evidence showing that Sean Hoey was involved in Omagh has always been a mirage and an unobtainable goal”.
He said that when considering the case “this court will be unavoidably wracked by doubt”.
“This is not a claim borne of boast, triumphalism or out of a naive hope without foundation in fact.”
Mr Pownall concluded that those bereaved in the Omagh bomb “could not now dispassionately conclude that the man trumpeted is in truth responsible” for the devastating effects it has had on their and their families’ lives.
Meanwhile, the British government’s decision to fund a civil case brought by the Omagh victims was challenged in the High Court yesterday by two of the men being sued.
Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly were refused permission to see the unredacted text of documents relating to the decision to assist the multi-million pound compensation lawsuit to the tune of 1.3m Euros.
Disclosure of some documents was ordered by January 26 at the hearing in London last week.
The full judicial review is due to start on March 14 and the actual compensation hearing on April 16.