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14 July 2009
MPs denied access to Omagh bombing report
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.
Notes for Editors:
Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, was asked last year by the Prime Minister to report on how intelligence agencies including GCHQ shared intelligence information on the Omagh bombing of 15 August 1998, when 29 people and two unborn children were killed. The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the bombing, and it and four individuals were named responsible in a high court civil action brought by the Omagh families last month.
The Gibson review was prompted by a BBC Panorama programme last September which suggested GCHQ had been monitoring mobile phones used by the bombers and that key phone number and phone movement information did not find its way to detectives investigating the crime until months later.
Witnesses' copies of the Report will be posted to them. Witnesses, government departments and members of the press who wish to pick up a hard copy of the report in Westminster should contact the Committee by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone 020 7219 2173.
Committee Membership is as follows: Sir Patrick Cormack MP (Chairman) (Conservative, South Staffordshire), Mr David Anderson MP (Labour, Blaydon), Rosie Cooper MP (Labour, West Lancashire), Mr Christopher Fraser MP (Conservative, South West Norfolk), Mr John Grogan MP (Labour, Selby), Mr Stephen Hepburn MP (Labour, Jarrow), Lady Hermon MP (Ulster Unionist Party, 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), Mrs Irish Robinson MP (Democratic Unionist Party, Strangford), David Simpson MP (Democratic Unionist Party, Upper Bann)
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