Omagh families fobbed off again
Omagh families fobbed off again

Omagh bomb victims’ families held what they said was a heated but unproductive meeting with British prime minister Gordon Brown yesterday over the role of British intelligence in the attack.

Relatives of the victims of the 1998 bombing -- in which 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins were killed -- met Mr Brown to discuss the actions of the British Crown services.

A television documentary last year revealed that at the government’s listening station, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), British agents were monitoring the movements and calls of the bombers’ mobile phones on the day of the bombing. At least one informer was also known to have been involved in the preparations for the attack.

Allegations remain that the bomb was allowed to explode in the centre of the mainly nationalist town in order to bring about a collapse in support for the then breakaway ‘Real IRA’.

The allegations made by the BBC’s Panorama were officially denied last month in a government-commissioned inquiry carried out by intelligence commissioner Peter Gibson.

Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aiden in the bombing, said after the meeting: “It was quite a heated meeting at times.

“We made our views very clear. We felt the government and the police service had failed the victims’ families.

“In particular the Panorama programme raised questions that we felt Sir Peter and his review didn’t answer.”

Mr Gallagher also claimed Brown had been “very generous”, despite his refusal to allow a journalist or a lowyer to be present at the meeting.

Browjn reportedly said he would “review” the material while seemingly holding out little real hope of such a development

The families’ meeting with the British PM was their second visit to Downing Street after holding talks with Tony Blair in 2007.

In his discussions Mr Gallagher also discussed the Omagh families’ civil action against the five men they suspect were responsible for the bombing.

The case is entering its final stages in the High Court in Belfast. The PSNI have so far failed to yield information which could aid their civil action against the five men they suspect planted the bomb in Omagh’s business district.

Deputy SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell met the families following their meeting with Mr Brown.

He said the families were “disappointed” that Mr Brown had nothing to offer on the issues raised in the Panorama programme.

Mr McDonnell said British intelligence services had kept their activities in the north secret for 40 years and said only an independent probe would give a complete picture of what happened in Omagh.

“The families’ demand for a full cross-border judicial inquiry should be supported,” he said.

The Panorama programme makers, in a detailed rebuttal to the Gibson intelligence report, said that it had not deealt with “the core” of the new allegations.

John Ware argued that the report did not deal with the key point of the programme, that information received by the RUC Special Branch from GCHQ was for some reason not acted upon.

“Unfortunately, Sir Peter’s review does not cover what happened to that [GCHQ] intelligence after it was received by Special Branch and that was at the core of the Panorama programme. This failure to share intelligence was at the very heart of the Panorama programme and its omission from Sir Peter’s report leaves a gaping hole in our knowledge of the tragedy that surrounds Omagh.”

In a related development, planned evidence at the High Court in Belfast by high profile informer Sean O’Callaghan is in doubt after the PSNI and Garda police so far failed to produce files on his case requested by the court.

O’Callaghan was due to go into the witness box last month to give evidence against alleged ‘Real IRA’ leader Michael McKevitt.

Those plans were put back after a lawyer for the PSNI said the force had “drawn a blank” in its attempts to find a record of debriefing sessions which O’Callaghan has claimed took place at Tunbridge Wells police station in England and then Gough Barracks, County Armagh, in 1988.

McKevitt is currently imprisoned on the evidence of another controversisal informer, FBI agent David Rupert.

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