Belfast Telegraph

Michael Gallagher launches legal action to challenge government's decision not to hold Omagh bomb inquiry

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the 1998 Omagh bomb.
Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the 1998 Omagh bomb.

By Alan Erwin

A public inquiry into the Omagh bombing is needed to learn lessons from any failures in the state's system for protecting against terrorist threat, the High Court has heard.

Counsel for the father of one of the victims also claimed such a probe was required to establish whether the atrocity could have been thwarted.

Michael Gallagher's son Aiden was among 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, killed in the August 1998 Real IRA attack.

Mr Gallagher is challenging the British Government's refusal to hold a public inquiry into the outrage.

The case centres on claims that a range of intelligence from British security agents, MI5 and RUC officers could have been drawn together to prevent the bombing.

Hugh Southey QC, for Mr Gallagher, told the court the efficiency of measures put in place to protect life needs to be investigated.

"It's clear in August 1998 there was a known risk to the people of Northern Ireland from dissident republicans," he said.

Julie Hughes, aged 21
Julie Hughes, aged 21

"What is now alleged at the heart of this case is that the system (to address that risk) didn't operate as efficiently or effectively as it should have done.

"That's why Article 2 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) requires an investigation.

"If that system was not as efficient as it should have been there's a need to learn lessons."

Breda Devine, 20 months
Breda Devine, 20 months
Esther Gibson
Spaniard Gonzalo Cavedo poses with a child on his shoulders beside the car carrying the bomb that seconds later killed 29 people, including the photographer
Elizabeth Rush
Olive Hawkes, aged 60
Julie Hughes, aged 21
Ann McCombe, aged 45
Mary Grimes, aged 65
Aiden Gallagher, aged 21
The bomb attack was the worst ever atrocity of Northern Ireland's decades of violence.
Brian McCrory, left, aged 54
Samantha McFarland, aged 17
Philomena Skelton, aged 39
Jolene Marlow, aged 17
The scene of the Omagh Bomb
Brenda Logue, aged 17
Alan Radford, aged 16
Bryan White, aged 27
Oran Doherty
Lorraine Wilson
Fred White
Veda Short
Geraldine Breslin
Deborah-Ann Cartwright
The scene of devastation in Omagh Town centre where upto 25 people have been killed in this afternoons blast. PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/08/98
Gareth Conway, Omagh bomb victim
James Baker, Omagh bomb victim
Several men have faced charges in connection with the attack, but nobody has ever been convicted of the murders
Cathy and Michael Gallagher, the sister and father of Omagh bomb victim, Aiden Gallagher.
PACEMAKER BFST 03-08-99: Man United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has a chat with Claire Gallagher, who lost her sight in the Omagh bomb, before yesterday's friendly against Omagh Town in aid of the Omagh Bomb Fund.
The happy couple — Ryan and Claire Bowse on their wedding day last year, nine years after Claire lost her sight due to injuries suffered in the Omagh bombing
The damage caused by the bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, 1998
Donna Marie McGillion, who was seriously injured in the Omagh bombing
The secret email which shows intelligence bosses knew that Omagh was a prime target for a terrorist attack weeks before the car bomb that devastated the town
Claire Radford, whose brother Alan was killed in the Omagh bomb, examines a new stained-glass window in the town's library with her daughter Mia. The window was created in memory of the victims of the blast which killed 29 people and unborn twins.
Michael Gallagher whose son Aiden, 21, was killed in the Omagh bomb attack Pic Paul Faith
Michael Gallagher (right), whose son Aiden, 21, was killed in the Omagh bomb attack with Stanley McCombe who lost his wife Ann Pic Paul Faith

Mr Gallagher launched his legal action after former Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers rejected calls for a public investigation back in September 2013.

She decided instead that a probe by Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire was the best way to address any outstanding issues surrounding the outrage. 

In October 2014 Dr Maguire published a report where he found RUC Special Branch withheld some intelligence information from detectives hunting the bombers.

Elizabeth Rush
Elizabeth Rush

No one has ever been convicted of carrying out the attack.

The challenge had been delayed due to issues over holding partially closed hearings to protect national security.

As the public hearing resumed, Mr Southey pointed to the views of a former Ombudsman, Baroness Nuala O'Loan, that the bombing could have been prevented.

Mary Grimes, aged 65
Mary Grimes, aged 65

He told Mr Justice Horner that Special Branch officers were reluctant to cooperate with a previous probe, and claimed failures in how they dealt with David Rupert, the FBI spy who infiltrated dissident republican ranks.

"There are real questions about whether or not they should have responded differently," counsel said.

"On the face of the open material Mr Rupert's handlers appeared to do nothing with this intelligence."

The case continues.

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