CHRIS Thornton seems to find the recent attempt to explain why MI5 withheld information from the police about the Omagh bombing unpersuasive. As the Security Service settles into its new Palace Barracks offices, will it find the Omagh victims lobby group too powerful to ignore? While trying to put out the fire before it spread, the Chief Constable instead illustrated how his senior officers viewed the new information in a very different light from himself.
UPDATE: In an act of breathtaking arrogance, the head of MI5 has refused to meet the Omagh victims’ group, saying she is “unclear as to why the group should wish to meet me”.Thornton reports:
Sir Hugh did not say nothing was withheld, although it was subsequently reported that he had. Information was withheld, but Sir Hugh argued that it was not relevant to the investigation. The people Rupert warned about, he said, had been involved in a different dissident IRA cell from the one that bombed Omagh.
But Sir Hugh’s answer begged further questions. Why, for example, if the material was not relevant, had four senior PSNI officers met the Omagh families to brief them about it? And in 1998, shouldn’t it have been the detective in charge of the investigation – not MI5 – who decided how relevant the warning was?
It hardly seems coincidental that one of the sources of the Omagh warning – Paddy Dixon – has popped up in the news again recently. Recent reports suggested he had lost the protection of his Garda handlers, causing Omagh justice campaigner Michael Gallagher concern.
My guess is that the Garda – which prevented PSNI access to Dixon – are in the same situation as MI5 over their handling of the warning they received. If it becomes apparent that they were willing to sacrifice 29 shoppers in the worst atrocity of the Troubles to enable their agents to stay in place, well, the victims’ families will just have to accept that it’s all in the public interest, since there are no means to hold the security services to account.