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Arlene Foster backs Shankill bomb families' call for inquiry into claims RUC were warned about attack

By Deborah McAleese

Published 05/02/2016

Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds meet yesterday with relatives of those killed in the Shankill bombing
Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds meet yesterday with relatives of those killed in the Shankill bombing

Arlene Foster has backed victims of the 1993 Shankill bombing in their call for an inquiry after claims that an informer gave the police advance warning of the attack.

The First Minister yesterday spoke to the relatives of victims on the Shankill Road, and said she would discuss the controversy with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

DUP leader Mrs Foster said: "We need to get to the truth of this. I hear what the Chief Constable has to say in relation to the allegation, but when you listen to the families and how they have been retraumatised we have to give them beyond reasonable doubt the certainty that it didn't happen.

"If it did happen, then we need to find out that as well.

"The jury is out until we hear the truth of the matter, and that's why we're trying to help and support these families."

Meanwhile, Chief Constable George Hamilton has again insisted that police did not have advance warning of the bomb.

Mr Hamilton said that after "dozens of hours of research and investigation" into claims of collusion he was "absolutely convinced" that the RUC had no knowledge of the Shankill bombing that could have prevented the atrocity.

The Police Ombudsman is currently investigating allegations that the RUC had information which would have allowed it to stop the bombing.

It follows reports in the Irish News the IRA leader who planned the Shankill attack was working as a police informer.

However, Mr Hamilton dismissed the claims during a public meeting of the Northern Ireland Policing Board yesterday. He repeated denials that he had first made at a meeting in Queen's University last week.

"I am absolutely convinced that the police service at the time had no knowledge of the Shankill bombing that could have prevented it from happening. I know that statement will be tested, investigated and found to be right or otherwise by the Police Ombudsman, in whom I have full confidence," said Mr Hamilton.

He added: "I would urge grieving families and victims to accept what I'm saying at face value, I wouldn't say it if I didn't have a high level of confidence that I am on firm ground, but I would ask families and victims to also have confidence in the Police Ombudsman and his independent investigation."

Earlier this week a woman whose parents were killed in the bomb appealed to the IRA to meet her and hand over the stolen document that allegedly shows police could have prevented the attack.

Michelle Williamson said she was devastated by the report the north Belfast IRA commander behind the bomb had tipped off his Special Branch handlers about it, but they had failed to act.

The document alleging possible collusion is said to have been among files stolen by the Provisionals during the Castlereagh break-in. The Police Ombudsman is investigating the claims.

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