Editor's Viewpoint: Omagh bomb questions must be answered
It is easy to understand the frustration of members of the NI Affairs Committee over the government’s refusal to share all its intelligence on the 1998 Omagh bombing.
The MPs were only shown an edited version of Sir Peter Gibson’s |report which examined the role of the intelligence services before and after the bombing which killed 29 people. Even Sir Peter was only given limited terms of reference for his inquiry which meant he was not able to compel witnesses to appear or to talk to everyone he wanted to question.
Of course discretion has to be exercised in |matters of national security and there can never be total transparency on intelligence matters. However, there are disquieting questions still surrounding the Omagh bombing and the |subsequent police investigations. And rightly, the MPs want answers to those questions — answers which no one seems prepared to give them.
Could the bombing have been prevented if those responsible for carrying out other attacks earlier in the year had been pursued and arrested? Was vital information gleaned from eavesdropping on the Omagh bombers’ mobile phone calls not shared with police in Northern Ireland, especially those detectives investigating the atrocity? Could that information have led to the arrest of the bombers before vital forensic evidence was destroyed?
The relatives of those killed in the bombing and the injured have been badly let down by the police and criminal justice system. No one has been |convicted of the bombing and it seems unlikely that anyone ever will.
Relatives were promised no stone would be left unturned in the hunt for the killers. Sadly there seems to be plenty of stones which have been left unturned and the government is reluctant to shed further light on events surrounding the bombing. Surely more evidence can be made available to MPs which could address their concerns? Calling for an inquiry is an understandable reaction, but that is a route which promises more than it is likely to yield, certainly in the short term.