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Investigation criticised by O'Loan

By Emily Moulton

Published 21/12/2007

The police investigation into the Omagh bomb massacre has been dogged by controversy for years.

In 2001 former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's scathing report was highly critical of the police investigation and accused top ranking officers of failing the families of the 29 victims.

Of the many findings which sparked controversy upon its release six years ago was the very direct attack against the then Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

Mrs O'Loan blamed the "defective leadership" of the former Chief Constable, describing it as "seriously flawed" and highlighted the inefficiencies of the authorities in relaying vital intelligence in the lead up to the atrocity.

The report revealed that police had two prior warnings - on August 4 and 12, 1998 - about plans to attack Omagh, and that Special Branch officers failed to pass on information warning of threatened dissident Republican attacks, including one in Omagh on the day of the bomb.

And while she concluded that it was unclear whether the bombing would have been prevented if the RUC had taken more action over all information received between August 4 and 15, she did find that because of the " seriously flawed" judgement and leadership of the Chief Constable and Assistant Chief Constable, any chances of detaining and then convicting the Omagh bombers was "significantly reduced".

After its release, the Police Association, which was representing those officers named in the report, launched a legal bid to have it quashed, claiming her findings were "inaccurate and error-ridden".

However, in January 2003 the association withdrew its legal bid and the Policing Board and the families accepted her conclusions.

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