Was the Omagh bomb allowed to happen?

The families of the victims have called for a full cross-order public inquiry into the Omagh bomb, which took place ten years ago this week.

Former agent and ‘whistleblower’ Kevin Fulton, who had infiltrated the IRA alleged that he had warned British services in advance of an attack. He claimed this information could have prevented the attack if it was acted upon.

The allegations where investigated in 2001 by the Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan.

The report concluded that Kevin Fulton was considered as a reliable informant. His warnings did not specifically mention Omagh, but gave information about suspects, possible plots and the location of bombs.

‘Mrs O’Loan said: “My conclusion is that even if reasonable action had been taken on the information from Fulton, it is unlikely that the Omagh bomb could have been prevented.”’

However, O’Loan’s investigation also found that there was another warning by an anonymous caller which specifically mentioned an attack in Omagh on the 15th August, the day of the bombing. The warning was not acted upon by Special Branch. If it had been, and it should have been, the attack could well have been prevented.

Since the Ombudsman’s Report, the Nally report investigated claims that the 26-County Garda police failed to pass on information to the RUC in the North about the Omagh bomb plot and allowed it to happen. The Nally report denied the claims.

Michael Gallagher, father of a bomb victim and Chairman of the Omagh Support and Self Help Group, has said that the report is inadequate because it did not include the evidence of Paddy Dixon.

According to the Observer:

“Dixon was the most important police informer (Garda) inside the Real IRA in the crucial months leading up to the 1998 Omagh bombing, which left 29 dead...

“In total, five Real IRA bombing missions were thwarted as a result of Dixon’s intelligence But in order to give Dixon credibility within the [Real IRA], the Garda police ordered that a number of attacks be allowed through. They included a massive bomb attack that devastated Moira in February 1998. No one died in the blast, but the next sortie allowed through, however, would have far more serious consequences.’

In short, Dixon claims the Omagh bomb was allowed to go ahead. Again Nuala O’Loan is convinced Dixon is credible.

The puzzle remains - why won’t the Garda let Paddy Dixon talk to the PSNI?”, says Michael Gallagher.

The families have been campaigning and lobbying to get a new investigation. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has spoken of his support for the idea.

“Republicans would be only too glad to co-operate with any independent, international investigation into the bomb explosion, because we think the PSNI (Police Service) themselves have questions to answer. There’s a very strong belief within Irish Republicanism that the PSNI not alone failed to investigate the Omagh bomb properly, but the RUC actually knew about the bomb before it took place.”

Only two men have been tried in connection with the Omagh murders. The case against south Armagh man Colm Murphy collapsed and his conviction overturned in 2005 when doubt was cast on the evidence of two Garda officers. Electrician Sean Hoey was cleared and two senior PSNI officers were accused of perjury when his trial ended in December last year.

Mr McGuinness has signalled his party’s determination to get answers.

“There are serious questions to be asked about the Omagh bomb investigation,” he said.

“Nobody knows more about what happened than (the PSNI), and there’s a very strong argument for an international, independent investigation into the Omagh bomb investigation and the actual bomb explosion itself.”

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© 2008 Irish Republican News