Northern Ireland Affairs Committee: Press Notice

Date 16/3/2010

THE OMAGH BOMBING: SOME REMAINING QUESTIONS

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee today (16 March) publishes its report examining the continuing impact of the Omagh bombing of 15 August 1998.

The Committee:

€ calls for new investigation into whether intelligence relating to those suspected of the bombing was passed on to the detectives investigating it, and if not, why not;

€ concludes that questions remain about whether the bombing could have been pre-empted by action against terrorists who carried out earlier bombings in 1998;

€ seeks a definitive statement on whether the names of those thought to have been involved in the bombing were known to the intelligence services, Special Branch, or the RUC in the days immediately after the bombing, and if so, why no arrests resulted;

€ asks the Government to justify the argument that the public interest is best served by keeping telephone intercepts secret rather than using them to bring murderers to justice;

€ calls on the Intelligence and Security Committee to reconsider how any intercept intelligence was or was not used;

€ criticises the Prime Minister for refusing the Chairman access to the Intelligence Services Commissioner's review of how intercept intelligence gathered by GCHQ was used by Special Branch; and

€ recommends that the Government consider providing legal aid for the victims of terrorism if they bring civil actions against suspected perpetrators once criminal investigation has failed to bring a prosecution

The Committee's Chairman, Sir Patrick Cormack MP, commented: "Far too many questions remain unanswered. The criminal justice system has failed to bring to justice those responsible for the Omagh bombing. The least that those who were bereaved or injured have the right to expect are answers to those questions."

Notes to editors

1. A 500lb car bomb exploded in Market Street, Omagh, on 15 August 1998, killing 29 people and two unborn children, and injuring hundreds more. The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the attack.

2. Two men have been tried and acquitted on offences related to the bombing. They are Colm Murphy, tried in Dublin in 2002 and retried earlier this year; and Sean Hoey, tried in Northern Ireland in 2007.

3. The inquiry focused largely on Sir Peter Gibson's review into the use of intelligence intercept information. Sir Peter, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, reported to the Prime Minister at Christmas 2008. A summary version of his report is publicly available. The full, classified report has not been made available to the Committee, in spite of repeated requests to the Prime Minister for the Chairman to see it.

4. Sir Peter's review followed a BBC Panorama programme that claimed GCHQ was monitoring mobile telephones used by the bombers on the day of the bombing.

5. The bombing occurred four months after the Belfast Agreement was signed on 10 April (Good Friday) 1998.

6. The Committee took evidence from Michael Gallagher and Godfrey Wilson of the Omagh Support and Self-Help Group; John Ware and Leo Telling of BBC Panorama; Sir Peter Gibson; Sir Hugh Orde, then Chief Constable, and colleagues from the PSNI; the former Police Ombudsman Baroness O'Loan; Jason McCue, the families group solicitor in a High Court civil action; and Norman Baxter and David McWilliams, former PSNI officers involved in the investigation.