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‘No grounds’ for an inquiry into Omagh blaze that killed family

A public inquiry into how a convicted sex offender set fire to his home and killed his family has been called for by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Arthur McElhill set fire to the house, killing his partner Lorraine McGovern and their five children, in November 2007.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey told MLAs there were no substantive grounds for the inquiry and warned it could be distressing for relatives.

Supporting the Assembly's call, Sinn Fein member Michelle O'Neill said: “We also believe that again all the other agencies need to take responsibility here. We need to minimise risk.

“Nobody can say for sure that an event like this will never be repeated but as long as we are confident that we have taken forward all the things that we can to ensure that the best practices are in place and that people work together more efficiently.”

McElhill, from Lammy Crescent, Omagh, burned the house down because his partner threatened to leave him, an inquest in December concluded.

On the opening day of the inquest, forensic investigators said that the fire had been started when someone who was inside the house set light to a mixture of petrol and white spirits which had been poured in the hall.

A court clerk read a statement from a Fire Service commander who searched the house.

First he found the bodies of two adults, then the children and finally a baby in a cot. The children were Caroline (13), Sean (7), Bellina (4), Clodagh (19 months) and James, aged just nine months.

The Assembly yesterday voted to call on the minister to seek the agreement of Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward for a public inquiry. Mr McGimpsey said he would write to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister asking them to raise the matter with the NIO. But he said a review had already identified failings by the social services.

“In light of this I am therefore of the view that there are no substantive grounds arising from those areas for which I have responsibility for the holding of a public inquiry into this tragedy,” he said.

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