The families of Omagh bomb victims have received a fresh blow after Gordon Brown ruled out any immediate inquiry into Northern Ireland’s worst terrorist atrocity.
The revelation comes just days after a former senior police officer said the Government and the authorities “took their eye off the ball” before the attack in 1998.
Norman Baxter told the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee that the authorities had turned a blind eye to the activities of the gang of bombers.
The families of some of the 29 people killed in the Omagh bomb met with Prime Minister Gordon Brown six months ago to request a cross border public inquiry.
However, in a letter to Victor Barker seen by the Belfast Telegraph, the Prime Minister said he would not consider an inquiry into Omagh until a consultation period on the Eames/Bradley |proposals and the Bloody Sunday inquiry were completed.
The Prime Minister continued: “I think it would be prudent to allow both of these to be published and considered before reaching any view on the prospect for a new inquiry into Omagh.”
But Mr Barker, who lost his son James in the atrocity, responded angrily to the letter. He said: “He talks about the money spent on the Saville Report but that has nothing to do with Omagh.
“Tony Blair, when he was Prime Minister, indicated that he would leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of these criminals — sadly neither he nor the Government have ever honoured that pledge.
“Sadly, I do not believe we are any nearer learning the truth.”
Mr Barker also said that the remarks of Norman Baxter this week confirmed what he and the other families had suspected.
“The security in that part of Northern Ireland has always been extremely lax,” he said. “It’s not very pleasant to hear but it is what we have always suspected.”
Mr Baxter told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that the bombing team had “free rein” after 1997 adding: “The authorities allowed that to continue.”
He said, had intelligence services shared information with the police, the lives of the 29 people killed could have been saved.
“In the post 1998 settlement there was a drive by the Northern Ireland Office to ensure security was reduced in certain areas and I, as a serving officer, was aware that was happening,” he told the MPs' committee investigating intelligence surrounding the 1998 Omagh bombing.
“The policy was a continual drift towards demilitarisation to satisfy political groupings.”