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Anguish of Omagh bomb victims something I'll never forget, says author of new book on atrocity

By Rebecca Black

The impact of meeting the victims of the Omagh bomb "has never left me", former Policing Board chair Sir Desmond Rea revealed as he launched a new book on the atrocity.

Co-written with former PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde, Bear In Mind These Dead: The Omagh Bombing And Policing, aims to be a "thoughtful look" at the policing operation following the 1998 bomb which killed 29 people.

Both men played significant roles in the aftermath of the bombing.

However, no one has ever been brought to justice for the atrocity, although the victims' families won a civil action against four men.

Within the course of the book the authors examine "two searing questions (that) have bedevilled all discussion on the Omagh bombing" - whether any information or intelligence was available to the then RUC which could have prevented the bomb, and was the investigation following it as robust as it should have been.

The foreword to the book - the title of which is taken from John Hewitt's poem of the same name - warns that while direct answers to these questions are not supplied, the authors map out in detail the work of the PSNI and Policing Board.

It is the second book co-authored by Mr Rea, following Policing In Northern Ireland, Delivering The New Beginning, published in 2014.

Mr Rea told the Belfast Telegraph his memories of meeting victims of the Omagh bomb when he was chair of the Policing Board have never left him.

He said the 1998 bomb presented the PSNI with challenges of "considerable complexity".

Referring to his first book, Mr Rea said he identified the Omagh bomb investigation overview, the scrutinising of the current inquiry, the review of murder investigations in general, the management and dissemination of intelligence, the monitoring arrangements and communications with victims of the bombing as stories within themselves.

"In doing research for my first book, I was very aware of the sort of issues that were there and I knew they made a fascinating story," he said.

"It was important to bring Hugh Orde on board, because he brought the policing perspective."

He said he considered families, friends of those killed, as well as those who came to the rescue as victims, adding meeting the victims had moved him. "It has never left me - the meetings with the Omagh victims and self-help group," he said.

Dennis Bradley, former vice-chair of the Policing Board, and QC Sir Keir Starmer, were among those at the launch of the book last night in south Belfast.

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