The full Nally Report into the 1998 Omagh bombing cannot be published for security reasons, Dublin's Minister for Justice has claimed.
Declaring that the tiny breakaway 'Real IRA' was planning similar attacks, Michael McDowell insisted that the publication of the report would lend assistance to republican dissidents.
"My first duty must be to prevent another Omagh, and therefore not to put into the public domain something which assists them in changing their modus operandi so the next time they can get away with it", Mr McDowell told the parliament in Dublin.
The bomb was constructed in the 26 Counties and driven across the border to the Tyrone town of Omagh, where it detonated with devastating consequences. Warnings phoned to different organisations proved insufficient to clear the area, and 29 people lost their lives in the ensuing explosion.
In recent years, allegations have been made by Garda police detective sergeant Dermot Nally that the Gardai had sufficient information to prevent the bombing -- including the identity of the bomb-maker, the location of the bomb's manufacture and the timing of the attack.
But following the conclusion of the Nally investigation, the Minister for Justice declared that there was no truth in the allegations that the Garda police failed to give information to the RUC in the North that could have prevented the bombing.
However, speculation that the bombing was allowed to proceed by the police forces -- possibly to protect an informer or for other military purposes -- has only been fuelled by the failure to publish the Nally report.
Rejecting the families' desire to obtain the truth on the matter, Minister McDowell said: "it is simply not a sustainable proposition that the victims of crime have a right to all information irrespective of its implications for national security, the rule of law and the rights of others".
The report found there was no truth in allegations that the Garda failed to give information to the RUC that could have prevented the Omagh bombing.
Mr Enda Kenny, leader of Fine Gael, asked Mr McDowell whether a new inquiry into the bombing could be initiated - based on the model adopted by retired Canadian judge Peter Cory who examined cases of collusion in both parts of Ireland.
Mr McDowell replied the Cory investigation "operated on the basis of an absence of statutory powers. If you don't have statutory powers there is only so far that you can go."
He added that a tribunal of inquiry like the Mahon or Moriarty tribunals "would be wholly unsuitable for this because they are required to operate in public and you just couldn't have a public tribunal dealing with this kind of material".
Mr McDowell was then asked about the failure to interview a key witness -- reportedly an informer -- who "is currently being protected by this State under the Witness Protection Scheme".
The Minister for Justice disputed this and pointed out that a number of efforts were made to obtain information from the witness.
Labour Party leader, Mr Pat Rabbitte, pointed out that the Ombudsman in the North was able to provide the families most affected by the Omagh tragedy with a considerable amount of information.
"I strongly believe the Government must find a way to provide the families with as much information as is possible, without compromising the undoubtedly valid arguments relating to sensitive security material."
Yesterday some of the relative of the Omagh bomb victims snubbed the Taoiseach during his visit to the talk. Instead they travelled to Dublin to meet Mr Kenny after Mr Ahern said he could only spare a short time to hold discussions with them.
Mr Kenny said the relatives of the Omagh victims had been treated disgracefully by the Government.
"Despite repeated promises made in the Dail, the Government has reneged on its commitment to publish the findings of the Nally Report, which investigated whether the Garda withheld information from police in the North which could have helped to prevent the bombing," he said.
In Omagh, Laurence Rush, whose wife Libby was killed by the bomb, said their meeting with Mr Ahern had been too short.
"It didn't allow for in-depth argument and discussion about things we are concerned about. I reminded him that all the people who had been charged, they are not charged with Omagh."
He reiterated the families' demand that the secret Nally Report into Garda handling of intelligence on the bombing be published in full, or a public investigation be established.