Belfast Telegraph

Omagh justice campaigner Gallagher backs O'Loan '110%' over comments


By Suzanne Breen

A man whose son was killed in the Omagh bomb has voiced strong support for Nuala O'Loan and said he also believes the atrocity could have been prevented.

Michael Gallagher described the former Police Ombudsman as "a woman of the utmost honesty and integrity" who had "always told the truth no matter how uncomfortable it might be" to the families.

Mr Gallagher was speaking after widespread criticism of Baroness O'Loan's remarks and her call for a public inquiry on the 20th anniversary of the Real IRA attack. Her claim that the bomb could have been prevented was rejected by PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton.

Kevin Skelton, whose wife Philomena died in the explosion, described the timing of her comments as "despicable" and said he had no interest in a public inquiry. But Mr Gallagher last night said his family stood "110% behind Nuala O'Loan".

He said: "She has been one of the few people in the whole Omagh bomb saga who has shown the utmost honesty and integrity to the families.

"She has always told the truth no matter how uncomfortable that might be. She paid a high price in criticism yesterday for once again doing so."

Mr Gallagher rejected suggestions that Mrs O'Loan chose the wrong day to speak out.

"When is the right day?" He asked. "For some, every day will be insensitive.

"Some people have never forgiven Nuala O'Loan for her constructive criticism of the Omagh bomb investigation in 2001.

"She did not in any way criticise police on the ground on the day of the Omagh bomb. She spoke of the failure of the intelligence services to share information."

Mr Gallagher said that his daughter Cat Wilkinson had "gone to bed on Tuesday night very upset" at the attacks on Mrs O'Loan. He repeated his call for a public inquiry.

"Our family wants to find out the truth about Omagh. If other people don't want a public inquiry, that is their right. But nobody should deny our right to ask for one," he said.

"If our suspicions that the bomb could have been prevented are wrong, let the authorities prove we are wrong. Our campaign is wholly apolitical.

"A public inquiry would answer some very serious questions and highlight the lessons that need to be learned for the future."

Richard Scott, a retired police officer who attended the bomb scene in 1998, has called on Mrs O'Loan to apologise for her "insensitive remarks". Now chairman of Military and Police Support of West Tyrone, which offers support to victims, Mr Scott said Mrs O'Loan has caused enormous hurt on a most painful day.

"By her remarks she has damned the officers on duty that day and for that she must apologise unreservedly to each and every one on duty that day," he claimed.

"She must also apologise to those officers who worked tirelessly to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"I reiterate what I have said in the past few days, lay the blame with the terrorists who snuck into Omagh and stop trying to blame everyone else.

"Perhaps Mrs O'Loan will reflect on this, to offer whatever help we can to those affected by this and other atrocities.

"To that end I am proud of my association with Kevin Skelton and his Families Moving On Group. Between them and Military and Police Support of West Tyrone we are working tirelessly, with limited resources, offering basic support to victims and helping them when they are ready to ask for professional help."

Mrs O'Loan has said she is standing by her claims that the bombing could have been prevented.

She told yesterday's Belfast Telegraph she was sorry if her claim and her call for a public inquiry had hurt any relatives, but she had a duty to speak out.

Belfast Telegraph

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