Pressure mounts for the release of the Omagh tapes

I’m glad to say that the mystique of the secret world isn’t overawing everyone with connections to the British establishment. John Ware of Panorama who has a reporter’s relationship ( that is, nervous silence in the case of his recent Omagh programme). amplifies the obvious questions I posed on the back of the programme.

“There is a much easier way to clear up what GCHQ knew about the Omagh bombers and when: it is simply to establish whether any of GCHQ’s intercept material still exists.

If it does, it is surely not Sir Peter who is best placed to assess whether it could have benefited the police investigation, but rather the detectives who were originally deprived of it.

If the Government is serious about helping the families, there is a simple way to do it: disclose whatever material there is relating to GCHQ’s intercepts both to the detectives and to the families’ lawyers, who are now suing five suspected bombers in the High Court in Belfast.”

Milords Trimble and Bew, along with the Labour member of the Commons NI select committee David Anderson, say “it is imperative that the recordings and transcripts of what the bombers said as they drove to put the “brick in the wall” should be made available to lawyers representing the families in the ongoing civil case being heard in Belfast. …. public servants should be allowed to assist the lawyers and be able to give evidence without any fear of prosecution or punishment.

Silence as an answer will suggest the Government are in a blue funk about what to do. Unfortunately the House of Lords is in recess; otherwise the question would demand an answer. At least they’ve put down a marker. I hope they keep the pressure up and others join them. A great ally would be Baroness Park of Monmouth a scourge of the IRA in the Lords for years and in her younger days an MI6 controller of Soviet spies who in 2005, noted the cost of the Omagh families’ civil case.“The people of Omagh were granted help by Her Majesty’s Government only last year (2004) for a civil action, and so far they have received only £354,373 compared to the £155 million, still rising, for the Bloody Sunday inquiry.The citizens of Northern Ireland are regularly denied justice, not by the state….” (In all, the government contributed a total of £800,000 to the fund.)

The usual excuse for unwarranted silence is that it would set a precedent. Yes indeed. Disclosures about the horrors of Omagh would mark a good beginning to launch a wider comb-out of the official records by someone like the former cabinet secretary Lord Butler, who did a good job in examining the accuracy of the Iraq intelligence.

  • billyb

    I’ve defintely missed something. I thought the Real IRA planted the Omagh bomb.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    “I’ve defintely missed something. I thought the Real IRA planted the Omagh bomb.” No doubt.

    I think we’re just trying to work out who helped them. Do keep up.

  • joeCanuck

    The British government are the world’s best when it comes to hiding “secrets”. The public shouldn’t hold its breath waiting for the truth.

  • [aside]A little bit more from that Baroness Park link:

    The citizens of Northern Ireland are regularly denied justice, not by the state but by violent paramilitaries who keep them in a state of fear in their daily lives, exact tribute from families, small shopkeepers and businesses, and exile to the mainland members of the community who have crossed them, where, incidentally, they get no support from Her Majesty’s Government. They would be better off as asylum seekers in their own country. No one dares complain to the police, go to court, or talk to the media; and this in a free country—the United Kingdom. This happened before the Belfast agreement, but it has continued ever since, despite assurances given both in the agreement and by the Prime Minister. We let out all the prisoners. The then Secretary of State, when asked why we did not halt the flow of releases until the paramilitaries stopped their beatings and shootings, refused, saying that they must be expected to do “a little

    9 Jun 2005 : Column 969

    domestic housekeeping”. Yet the agreement expressly guaranteed the human right to choose where to live and the right to freedom from sectarian harassment.

    The Baroness was also a contributor to debates on the Chinook crash.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    If anything dodgy was going on – ie it was not a cockup – then it is inconcievable that the truth will out.

    Presumably Blair and Brown have already been briefed. Interim enquiry should only take a few days and we should be told immediately if the tapes were listened to or not. The debate about the release of the tapes can continue at the same time.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Of related interest is the case of Binyam Mohamed, a Guantanamo detainee facing Military Tribunal and the death penalty. He alleges torture in various countries since arrest in 2002, overseen by the US but accompanied by British security service supplying questions and gathering information obtained from alleged torture.

    A judge ruled that, despite the Foreign Office recourse to the ‘national security’ argument, the information held, by their own admission, by the Foreign Office should be handed over to the lawyers representing Mr Mohamed.

    At judicial review stage, the judge noted that, torture being a war crime, this deserved a decisive weight in conderation against the national security factor, though the information remains undisclosed. One wonders if the deaths of twenty-nine people and the subsequent failure to administer justice wouldn’t hold the same weight.