Belfast Telegraph

Omagh families threaten legal move

Families of Omagh bomb victims have vowed to take the British and Irish governments to court if they continue to refuse to hold a public inquiry into the attack.

Relatives issued the warning to the authorities in London and Dublin as they outlined details of a report they commissioned into alleged intelligence failings on both sides of the border in the lead up to the 1998 Real IRA atrocity and with the subsequent criminal investigations.

The families handed the report to the governments last June, but say they have yet to receive a substantive response.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the bombing, said the lack of answers from the governments was "prolonging the agony of the families". He said: "I think the governments should come clean and say we are going to have a public inquiry or we are not going to have a public inquiry. If they come out and say they are not going to have a public inquiry then we will go to court and challenge that decision and we will put our evidence before the court and let the court decide if there is merit in our case or not."

Any future court action would come in the form of judicial review proceedings. Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, died when the dissident republican car bomb ripped through the Co Tyrone town, months after the signing of the historic Good Friday Agreement. While no-one has been criminally convicted of the crime, four republicans have been found liable for the atrocity and ordered to pay £1.6 million compensation.

Relatives published a small part of the report collated for them by London-based security experts, saying the remainder was too sensitive. One of the most significant sections, the families claim, is files of 4,000 emails detailing communication between an FBI agent, who had infiltrated the Real IRA at the time of the bombing, and his handlers.

While emails from agent David Rupert, who was apparently working in conjunction with MI5, have already featured heavily in past court proceedings, the families claim that a number which indicated that a bombing was planned have never been made public. They contend the messages identify Omagh as a potential target and establish a time frame consistent with the eventual attack.

Former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Dame Nuala O'Loan, who while in office carried out her own investigation into the bombing, and former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner and counter terrorism chief Bob Quick have publicly backed the call for an inquiry. Amnesty International also wants a full independent probe.

Dame Nuala said what had emerged in the 15 years since the attack was "cause for enormous concern". "There can be no doubt that there were massive failures by the security and intelligence services," she said. She said the report contained very significant material that had to be acted on with a public inquiry.

Mr Quick said he had given support to the relatives for years in the background. "More recently I have learned even more new information which certainly as a former counter terrorism professional has led me to conclude that the only proper thing to do is examine these issues," he said.

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