Decision due on public inquiry into Omagh bombing

Decision due on public inquiry into Omagh bombing

A decision on whether to order a public inquiry into the 1998 Omagh bombing is expected to be announced later by the government.

Relatives of victims of the atrocities have been informed that Northern Ireland Minister Chris Heaton-Harris will make a statement in the House of Commons.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland office said: “The Government intends to make an announcement shortly.”

Northern Ireland Minister Chris Heaton-Harris is expected to make a statement in the House of Commons on Thursday (Brian Lawless/PA)

The dissident Republican bomb exploded in the town of Co Tyrone on August 15, 1998, killing 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins. Hundreds more were injured.

In 2021, a High Court judge recommended the UK government conduct a human rights-compliant investigation into alleged security deficiencies in the run-up to the attack.

Judge Horner thought it plausible that the attack could have been prevented.

His verdict came after a legal challenge by a surviving family member against the government’s refusal to conduct a public inquiry.

The judge also recommended that the Irish government launch its own investigation.

Mr Heaton-Harris had pledged to announce the Government’s response to the ruling earlier in the New Year.

The Foreign Secretary traveled to Omagh in December to meet some of the bereaved and to visit the bombing site and a nearby memorial garden.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed in the Omagh bombing, stands in the Memorial Garden in the town of Co Tyrone dedicated to the victims of the atrocity (PA)

In his 2021 ruling, Judge Horner ordered that a new investigation into the Real IRA’s atrocity should be held.

He said any investigation should examine a failure to act on a whistleblower tip or use intelligence and surveillance evidence about previous terrorist attacks.

The judge said a new probe should also examine whether a politically motivated “de-escalation” of the security approach to dissident Republicans in the months leading up to the 1998 attack resulted in crucial intelligence information not being acted upon.

Mr Justice Horner said he would not specifically order the UK probe into the Omagh bomb to take the form of a public inquiry and said he did not want to “dictate” the methodology.

Although he had no authority to order the Irish Government to act on the matter, the judge asked the Irish authorities to conduct their own inquiry in light of his findings.

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