Omagh. Time for truth.

Omagh bomb imageDo you remember where you were when you heard about Omagh?

I do. My future wife and I were down South on holiday. When the news came on the car radio – and with every bulletin, it became worse – we could hardly believe our ears. Hadn’t we just voted for peace and a new start in Northern Ireland a few short months before?

3.10 p.m this afternoon marks the exact moment fifteen years ago when a car bomb exploded in Market Street, Omagh killing 29 people, one pregnant with twins. It remains the largest loss of life of any single incident in the recent history of Northern Ireland political violence.

For countless families in and around Omagh and as far away as Spain, life had just changed utterly.

The UK government promised that “no stone would be left unturned in the investigation” and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam assured the families “you will want for nothing”

Yet, fifteen years on, the families still await the truth of what happened that day. They still await justice too.

At one level, we already know what happened. Militant republicans planted a bomb – the latest in a long line of such town centre car bombs – which claimed a terrible toll in lives and injuries.

Indeed, one can say that at least some of those responsible for the Omagh bomb attack are also known; they have even been found liable in civil law thanks to the tenacity of the families. But, the criminal justice systems of two countries have failed to establish criminal responsibility.

Despite criminal investigations, a civil case, a Police Ombudsman investigation, and other reviews in the UK and Ireland – including one conducted by the UK’s former Intelligence Services Commissioner, the full contents of which have not been made public nor even made avilable to the NI Affairs Committee – serious questions remain outstanding about alleged state failures in the lead up to and the aftermath of the Omagh bomb. In particular, there are unanswered questions concerning the gathering and sharing of intelligence material both between domestic agencies (for example between the RUC and MI5) and international agencies (for example between UK authorities, Ireland’s Garda Síochána, and the United States’ FBI).

This day last week I was honoured to join many of the bereaved families in Omagh in backing their call for an independent public inquiry into the circumstances leading to the bomb and the investigative failures that followed. That call is supported by the evidence contained in a report which the Omagh families themselves commissioned and handed over to the governments – so far without response.

As Sir Ivor Roberts, former Ambassador to Ireland put it this week in the Irish Times: “Faced with a lack of meaningful response from the governments to the report, the families’ demand for a public inquiry (backed by Amnesty International) is eminently reasonable.

The dignity and determination of the families to find the truth has not diminished, but has grown in the face of their loss over the last fifteen years.

If the Prime Minister and Secretary of State want to pay more than lip service to that grief, then they must now deliver the inquiry being urged by the families.

Surely Teresa Villiers and David Cameron don’t want to wait until they face the embarrassment of the bereaved families bringing them to court?

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  • Kevsterino

    I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make, here, Delphin. Are you saying the British Army in operating under American command?

  • tacapall

    Delphin since when has America not been controlled by the Crown, not Mrs Windsor now but the other Crown, the Crown that controls the City of London and all those tax havens like the Cayman isles, Isle of Man, Jersey etc, you know that little square mile that seems to house the headquarters of almost every bank and financial institution in the world including the headquarters of those companies that own the Federal Reserve and also includes the headquarters of almost every multinational global company that operates in the world. Politician dont make war politicians act on the authority of those who control our money supply, regardless who kills the most and who’s the biggest bully, when it comes to America and Britain they are both controlled by the same bankers.

  • Delphin

    Kev, my point is that some correspondents on Slugger add a throw away line about the BA in Iraq or Afghanistan when talking about the role of the Army in Northern Ireland. To me, not mentioning the role of the American armed forces , whose gig it is, seems bizarre. BTW I would fully accept that the BA where not blameless during their time in NI.

  • cynic2

    Tacapall

    If it was my decision they would never have got back into the Army. Indeed, they would still be in prison – along with a significant number of members of Sinn Fein

    It was the deal negotiated by Gerry that got them back out and back into uniform., I abhor it

  • cynic2

    Kesterino

    The examples of the Apache leaked on Wikileaks and numerous ;friendly fire’ incidents are bang up to date. The US does not prosecute its servicemen unless CBS films them in the Act

  • tacapall

    A little off the mark Cynic as as Fisher and Wright were released well before any paramilitary prisoner was released and they didn’t have to jump through the same hoops as every other prisoner that was released, another reason why Ann’s Law is flawed, but fair enough comment. But as the thread title says – Time for truth. It wasn’t just Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein that agreed to prisoners being released early, you seem to forget unionist politicians, Loyalist politicians, the British government and Irish government also agreed to the same prisoner release process and its not something unionists haven’t done before, check your history.

  • cynic2

    Tacapall

    I agree but it was a Republican DEMAND that Unionists acceded to as part of the package

  • cynic2

    Tacapall

    Good Lord. Don’t tell me you still believe in the ‘international conspiracy’ theory of the 1920s and 30’s? You know where that led! Surely you are too smart for that?

  • tacapall

    “Good Lord. Don’t tell me you still believe in the ‘international conspiracy’ theory of the 1920s and 30′s? You know where that led! Surely you are too smart for that”

    You’ve lost me Cynic, what international conspiracy of the 20s and 30s would that be ?