‘The gov­ern­ments just want to bury the ter­ri­ble truth’

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - OMAGH: THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY - By Anne Sheri­dan

‘We are civilised peo­ple who want to be heard’

A CON­FI­DEN­TIAL re­port on the Omagh bomb­ing con­tains ‘hugely em­bar­rass­ing’ and sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion which, if pub­licly re­leased, ‘could put fur­ther lives at risk’.

The damn­ing re­port was pre­sented to the Ir­ish and British Gov­ern­ments in 2012. How­ever – de­spite con­tain­ing sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion on how the gov­ern­ments han­dled in­for­ma­tion about the at­tack – rel­a­tives of those killed in the bomb are still ‘in limbo’.

The Omagh group said that, af­ter more than a year in of­fice, Leo Varad­kar has yet to meet with them to dis­cuss their re­port and ‘seek the truth’. They also ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment that the Taoiseach will not at­tend two memo­rial ser­vices in Omagh, in the com­ing days.

Michael Gal­lagher, 69, whose son Aidan, 21, was killed in Omagh nearly two decades ago, said their pleas to the Taoiseach to meet with the Omagh Sup­port and Self-Help Group to dis­cuss the re­port – handed over to his pre­de­ces­sor Enda Kenny six years ago – have fallen on deaf ears.

Af­ter nu­mer­ous ar­rests, col­lapsed crim­i­nal tri­als, civil ac­tion and re­peated calls for a cross-bor­der pub­lic in­quiry, no one has been con­victed for the 500lb blast that ripped through the mar­ket town in Co. Ty­rone, killing 29 peo­ple, in­clud­ing a woman preg­nant with twins.

Mr Gal­lagher told the Ir­ish Mail on Sun­day that words can­not con­vey the group’s ‘dis­ap­point­ment’ at the Taoiseach’s ab­sence at two memo­rial events and his ‘fail­ure to en­gage with sur­vivors’.

‘We have given up on jus­tice at this stage – we just want the truth. But the gov­ern­ments seem to want to bury Omagh, and we can’t al­low that to hap­pen,’ said Mr Gal­lagher.

‘Maybe we have got­ten it wrong [in our re­port] but let’s meet and dis­cuss this. I am not a con­spir­acy the­o­rist my­self but if I was, Omagh would be a dream.

‘If Mr Varad­kar is in­dis­posed due to hol­i­day plans, that is un­der­stand­able, but there is no rea­son why he can’t pen­cil us in his diary at a later date. We have been left in limbo and we are civilised peo­ple who just want to be heard,’ he told the MoS.

Mr Gal­lagher said ‘a prom­ise re­mains out­stand­ing’ from the Ir­ish State to dis­cuss the con­tents of the Omagh group’s re­port. A com­mit­ment was given that the re­port would be dis­cussed with all par­ties af­ter crim­i­nal cases con­cluded but no meet­ing has been sched­uled.

The Gov­ern­ment has now told the MoS there will be no pub­lic in­quiry into the bomb­ing as no new ev­i­dence has emerged.

Mean­while, a long-awaited le­gal chal­lenge to the British gov­ern­ment’s re­fusal to hold a pub­lic in­quiry has been put back to Fe­bru­ary 2019.

The case, brought by Mr Gal­lagher, 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.

In Mr Varad­kar’s ab­sence, health min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris will at­tend to­day’s Omagh memo­rial. The sec­ond event takes place on Wed­nes­day, the 20th an­niver­sary of the 1998 bomb­ing.

A Gover­ment spokesper­son told the MoS: ‘The Garda au­thor­i­ties re­main ready and will­ing to pur­sue any new or cred­i­ble ev­i­dence that might be brought for­ward that could ad­vance the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.’

jus­tice: Michael Gal­lagher has brought a le­gal chal­lenge

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