The Omagh Bombing: Government Response
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee today expresses deep dissatisfaction with, and disappointment at, the quality of the Government's response to the Committee's report The Omagh bombing: some remaining questions.
The Committee makes the following points:
It is unreasonable for the Prime Minister again to refuse to allow the Committee Chairman access to the report by the Intelligence Services Commissioner, Sir Peter Gibson, on intercept intelligence relating to the Omagh bombing. The Committee repeats its request for the Chairman to read the report.
The Government has failed to respond adequately to the Committee's concerns about the limits of Sir Peter's inquiry. Instead, the Government has sought to criticise a journalist for protecting his sources, which misses the Committee's point entirely.
The Government appears to contradict itself over whether the Omagh bombing requires further inquiry and the Committee seeks clarification of its position.
Committee Chairman, Sir Patrick Cormack, commented: "Although we are grateful to the Government for providing a response so quickly, we cannot overlook what we consider to be the serious deficiencies of this response. We are deeply disappointed that the Government has failed properly to address the recommendations in our report. We strongly urge our successor committee and the next Secretary of State to consider again the points made in our report."
Notes to Editors
1. The Committee's report, The Omagh bombing: some remaining questions, was published on 16 March 2010, and is available at http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmniaf/374/374.pdf.
2. The press notice accompanying that original report is at http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/northern_ireland_affairs/niacpn130910.cfm
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. The bombing occurred four months after the Belfast Agreement was signed on 10 April (Good Friday) 1998.
7. 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.
Committee Membership is as follows: Sir Patrick Cormack MP (Chairman) (Conservative, South Staffordshire), Rosie Cooper MP (Labour, West Lancashire), Christopher Fraser MP (Conservative, South West Norfolk), Mr John Grogan MP (Labour, Selby), Mr Stephen Hepburn MP (Labour, Jarrow), Lady Hermon MP (Independent, North Down), Kate Hoey MP (Labour, Vauxhall), Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP (SDLP, Belfast South), Mr Denis Murphy MP (Labour, Wansbeck), Stephen Pound MP (Labour, Ealing North), David Simpson MP (Democratic Unionist Party, Upper Bann).
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