Strong support for Omagh families on 15th anniversary
Strong support for Omagh families on 15th anniversary


Families of the Omagh bomb victims are being forced to go to the courts to require the Dublin and London governments to hold a public inquiry into the 1998 attack.

Twenty-nine civilians died in the ‘Real IRA’ bomb attack after telephoned bomb warnings failed to clear the area around the bomb. The attack was one of a series carried out by the breakaway IRA group against commercial targets in the months following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

It later emerged that state forces had had advance knowledge of the attack and had been tracking the device. However, they failed to intercept the bomb for reasons which have never been made clear.

International outrage at the loss of life forced the breakaway IRA group to declare an immediate ceasefire.

Relatives of the victims this week outlined details of a report they commissioned into the actions of intelligence chiefs on both sides of the border in the lead up to the tragedy.

The families handed the report to the governments last June, but say they have yet to receive a substantive response. Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the bombing, said the lack of answers from the governments was “prolonging the agony of the families”.

Ahead of the 15th anniversary of the tragedy, he criticised the governments’ stalling tactics.

“I think the governments should come clean and say we are going to have a public inquiry or we are not going to have a public inquiry,” he said.

“If they come out and say they are not going to have a public inquiry then we will go to court and challenge that decision and we will put our evidence before the court and let the court decide if there is merit in our case or not.”

Any future court action would come in the form of judicial review proceedings.

Relatives only published a small part of the report collated for them by London-based security experts, insisting the remainder was too sensitive.

One of the most significant sections, the families claims, are files of 4,000 emails detailing communication between an informer within the Real IRA at the time of the bombing and his handlers.

While emails from FBI agent David Rupert, who was apparently working in conjunction with MI5, have already featured heavily in past court proceedings, the families claim that a number which indicated that a bombing was planned have never been made public.

Mr Gallagher said the information was not acted on or shared with police working in the Omagh area.

The families said the report also contains further evidence that an active intelligence operation was ongoing on the day of the attack.

Mr Gallagher said “there was an enormous amount of intelligence available”, but that it was “not used properly”.

The relatives, who are part of the Omagh Support and Self Help Group, said the US government must also have a role in any future public inquiry as its organisation handled agent Rupert.

They said they would ideally like an answer from the authorities before the 15th anniversary of the bombing on august 15.

Former Six County Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan and former London ‘terrorism’ chief Bob Quick publicly backed the call for an inquiry. Amnesty international has also added its voice to demands for a full independent probe.

O’Loan, attending the public launch of the report in Omagh, said what had emerged in the 15 years since the attack was “cause for enormous concern”. Mr Quick said he had given support to the relatives for years in the background.

“More recently I have learned even more new information which certainly as a former counter terrorism professional has led me to conclude that the only proper thing to do is examine these issues,” he said.

Responding to the families’ call, a spokeswoman for the British government was non-committal. She said: “We are currently considering the Report from the Omagh support and self Help Group and hope to make a decision soon.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice in Dublin responded to the appeals in an even more off-hand manner.

“The minister is currently in the process of finalising his consideration of the issues that have been raised by the group”, she said. “He hopes to be in a position to conclude this process soon and once a conclusion has been reached he will communicate directly with the Omagh group.”

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