The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris MP has today announced that an independent statutory inquiry will be established into the preventability of the Omagh bombing in August 1998.
This is in response to a High Court judgment that found there were specific issues that gave rise to plausible arguments that the bombing by the Real IRA could have been prevented.
The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the Omagh Bombing in 1998, and four members of the Real IRA were subsequently found liable for the bombing in civil proceedings held in Northern Ireland. This inquiry does nothing to counter these findings, which are clear in who was responsible for this awful atrocity. The independent statutory inquiry will examine the four issues identified by the High Court; the handling and sharing of intelligence, the use of cell phone analysis, whether there was advance knowledge or reasonable means of knowledge of the bomb, and whether disruption operations could or should have been mounted, which may have helped prevent the Real IRA’s attack.
It will have the full powers provided by the Inquiries Act 2005, including the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and witnesses and take evidence under oath. Limiting the inquiry to the specific findings of the High Court will ensure that the Government can comply with its international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. A final report will be published that will respond to each of the issues identified by the Court.
Work has begun to establish the independent statutory inquiry as soon as possible. The appointment of an inquiry Chairperson will be announced and the inquiry’s terms of reference will also be published in due course. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP said: “The Omagh bomb was a horrific terrorist atrocity committed by the Real IRA, which caused untold damage to the families of those who were tragically killed and injured. Its impact was felt not just in Northern Ireland, but across the world.
“Having carefully considered the judgment of the High Court, I believe that an independent statutory inquiry is the most appropriate form of further investigation to address the grounds identified by the Court. I would like to thank the victims and survivors and all those affected by the Omagh bomb for their patience whilst I have reflected on the judgment and taken into account a range of sensitive, complex and technical factors.”