Report: The Omagh bombing - access to intelligence

14 July 2009

The Government is today criticised for refusing access to a key report on the Omagh bombing for MPs charged with scrutinising policy in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) has sought access to the Gibson review of intelligence intercepts for almost six months as part of its inquiry into Omagh: 10 years on.

The Prime Minister has three times turned down requests for access. Secretary of State Shaun Woodward and Cabinet Office Minister Tessa Jowell have also refused to let the Committee’s Chairman, Sir Patrick Cormack, see the review.

NIAC today publishes a Special Report, The Omagh Bombing: Access to Intelligence, calling again on the Prime Minister to allow access to the review.

The Committee has been allowed to see only a summary of Sir Peter Gibson’s conclusions, published in January. The full, unclassified review, delivered to the Prime Minister in December, is four times as long as the summary.

The Intelligence and Security Committee has been allowed to see the review, but is not a House of Commons Committee. Sir Peter Gibson himself has said he would wish as many people as possible to see his full review.

Sir Patrick said:

"The Omagh bombing was the single worst atrocity in Northern Ireland. Sir Peter’s review is one of the most important documents relating to that atrocity. Parliament has been refused access to that document.

"We do not doubt that Sir Peter’s summary is an accurate reflection of his full report. We wish, none the less, to satisfy ourselves that that is so, and he has himself said that he would be content for us to do so.

"The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has offered the Prime Minister every safeguard by waiving the right of all its 13 members to read the report and asking that I should be able to read it on their behalf, under supervision and without taking notes, and with my word that its contents will remain entirely confidential.

"We cannot properly conduct our work in relation to Omagh unless we are fully informed of the facts surrounding the bombing. It really is an insult to the Select Committee that its Chairman should not be allowed to see this report."

The government’s own guidelines on providing information to Parliament allow it to provide information on a confidential basis if it is impossible to do so publicly.

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