Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Omagh bomb: Key points made in the damning parliamentary probe

James Baker, Omagh bomb victim
Omagh bomb victim Sean McGrath
29 people were killed in the Omagh bombing atrocity in August 1998

Today's Westminster report has been highly critical of State secrecy in the aftermath of the Omagh bomb.



New Omagh inquiry needed

A new investigation is needed to examine whether vital intelligence was withheld from detectives hunting the bombers, the report states.

It said the key question remains unanswered — what public interest justification there can be for withholding intelligence, information or evidence from police investigating the atrocity.

Could bombing have been |prevented?

Committee concludes that questions remain about whether Omagh could have been pre-empted by action against terrorists who carried out earlier bombings.

It also adds: “Nothing we have seen leads us to challenge Sir Peter Gibson’s conclusion that any available intelligence could have been used immediately prior to the Omagh bombing to prevent it.”

Government secrecy “reprehensible”

It expressed “bitter disappointment” that the Prime Minister has refused to allow chairman Sir Patrick Cormack to read the full report. The report states it is “thoroughly reprehensible” that the Government should seek to prevent access, adding its attitude “has done more damage than good”.

Explain secrecy over telephone intercepts

The Government is told to justify the argument that the public interest is best served by keeping telephone intercepts secret rather than using them to bring the bombers to justice.

Reconsider use of intercept intelligence

The UK's Intelligence and Security Committee should reconsider the use of any intercept intelligence. The report adds: “We urge the Secretary of State to revise his view that this issue has ‘had its inquiry’ and to institute an immediate investigation into whether, and, if so, why, this intelligence was withheld.”

Were bombers known to intelligence services?

The committee called for a “definitive statement” from police on whether the names of those thought to have been involved in the bombing were known to the intelligence services or the RUC.

It adds: “If they were, we seek an explanation of why no action was taken to arrest or question the owners of those telephones.”

What did Special Branch know?

The report concludes that further investigation is needed into what evidence Special Branch gave to the investigation team, and what information was withheld and why.

“We believe that the public interest would be served by revealing to the greatest possible extent why information that might have led to arrests in a mass murder case was not used,” the committee said.

Legal aid for civil actions

The Government should consider providing legal aid for the victims of terrorism if they bring civil actions against suspected perpetrators once a criminal probe has failed to bring a prosecution.

‘Deep regret’ that no-one convicted

The committee expressed its “deep regret” that no one has been convicted of causing the worst terrorist outrage in Northern Ireland’s history.

“Whatever the reasons may be, the criminal justice system has in this case badly failed the victims of the bombing,” it concludes.

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