Belfast Telegraph

Omagh relatives get boost in bomb inquiry campaign

By Lesley Houston

Families of the Omagh bomb victims have been given “real new hope” in their fight for justice after the Secretary of State said he was considering a request for a cross-border inquiry.

Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aiden in the 1998 Real IRA bombing, said he was encouraged to learn that Owen Paterson appeared to have softened his stance on a probe.

Previously, the MP had said there should be no more open-ended inquiries into the Troubles.

But on the BBC’s Inside Politics yesterday, Mr Paterson said he was now considering the request for a cross-border inquiry into the bomb which killed 29 people, including a mother of unborn twins.

Mr Paterson said the bombers needed to be tried, convicted and jailed. He said he needed to discuss the report with a number of people including PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott. He added: “I will consider it very carefully.”

The glimmer of hope follows the presentation of a report by Omagh families to Mr Paterson last month, which they said contained fresh evidence authorities on both sides of the border could have prevented the bombing.

“There are some disturbing issues surrounding Omagh and it will cause some embarrassment for both the British and Irish governments,” Mr Gallagher told the Belfast Telegraph.

“But we feel that is insignificant compared to the suffering the families have had to endure on an ongoing basis with various pieces of information that have come out.

“The families are delighted that that the Secretary of State has taken this report very, very seriously. It’s a real sign of hope.”

Mr Gallagher said Mr Paterson had indicated he would share the information with the PSNI and Justice Minister David Ford.

He added that if the Secretary of State refused to authorise an inquiry, the families would attempt to overturn the decision with legal action.

There have been no successful criminal convictions relating to the bombing.

Mr Gallagher said they were also awaiting news of a meeting with Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

“We are hoping that will take place before they rise for the summer recess so we could give him the report and explain the process we went through,” added the campaigners’ spokesman.

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