Government to publish terms of reference for Omagh bomb inquiry – Lord Caine

The Government will publish terms of reference for an independent inquiry into the Omagh bomb atrocity later on Wednesday, Lord Caine has said.

The Northern Ireland Office minister, speaking during a visit to a shared education campus in Limavady, said he was very pleased the Government was able to take the step.

His remarks came as Tanaiste Micheal Martin said he did not think it made sense to have public inquiries into Omagh on both sides of the Irish border.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris ordered the independent inquiry into the 1998 Omagh bombing last year in response to a court judgment that directed the Government to establish some form of investigation.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden died in the Real IRA bombing, took the legal challenge that resulted in the judge directing the state to act.

Conservative Party Conference 2022
Lord Caine was speaking during a visit to Limavady (Jacob King/PA)

Hundreds more were injured.

Lord Caine said: “On the Omagh terms of reference, they are being published today.

“I am very pleased we have been able to take this forward as a Government and deliver a public inquiry in response to the Gallagher judgment.”

A number of families of Omagh victims have repeatedly called for an inquiry to also be carried out into the bombing in the Republic of Ireland.

Lord Caine said: “As far as the Irish government are concerned, I did raise this with them directly at the last meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I have always supported a public inquiry when it comes to Omagh.

“I think that is really important that we allow those families to get to the truth, that they get to the truth that they have been campaigning for for many, many years.”

Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly said: “We have discussed with the Irish government issues related to legacy.

“The Taoiseach (Leo Varadkar) was in Northern Ireland just a couple of weeks ago and I took the opportunity to urge full co-operation and collaboration with all public inquiries and investigations.”

Micheal Martin visit to Ulster University
Tanaiste Micheal Martin during a visit to Ulster University in Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

He said: “There is no amnesty in the Republic and there never has been an amnesty given in the Republic.

“The Gardai and the Director of Public Prosecutions are independent of Government.

“No direction has ever been given to either not to pursue cases that arose from the Troubles and not to prosecute, those are the facts.

“In respect of in and around Omagh, people were convicted in the Republic and imprisoned.

“We have made it very clear that we would be fully co-operative with any such inquiry.

“In our view, one inquiry is optimal, two separate inquiries to me doesn’t make sense because there would be clear overlap and duplication and maybe crossing each other.

“We have mechanisms, we have changed the law in the Republic on a number of occasions to facilitate the provision of information that the Republic may have in respect of certain crimes.”

Mr Martin added: “Our view is, we’ll see the terms of reference and then we’ll work to ensure that we contribute to that inquiry.”

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