Decision due on public inquiry into Omagh bombing

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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 atrocity have been advised that Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris is set to make a statement in the House of Commons.

A Northern Ireland Office spokesperson said: “The Government intends to make an announcement imminently.”

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

In 2021, a High Court judge recommended that the UK Government should carry out a human rights-compliant investigation into alleged security failings in the lead-up to the attack.

Mr Justice Horner found that it was potentially plausible the attack could have been prevented.

His ruling came after a legal challenge by a bereaved family member against the Government’s refusal to hold a public inquiry.

The judge also recommended that the Irish Government establish its own investigation.

Mr Heaton-Harris had pledged to announce the Government’s response to the judgment early in the new year.

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

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

He said any probe should examine the failure to act on an informer tip-off or use intelligence and surveillance evidence about previous terror attacks.

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

Mr Justice Horner said he was not going to order specifically that the UK probe into the Omagh bomb takes the form of a public inquiry, explaining he did not want to be “prescriptive” about the methodology.

While having no jurisdiction to order the Irish Government to act on the matter, the judge also urged authorities there to establish their own probe in light of his findings.

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