Families vow to fight on for Omagh justice

Families of the victims of the 1998 Omagh Bombing have vowed to continue their fight after the UK government decided not to proceed with a further inquiry into events surrounding the atrocity.

Omagh bombing

Families of the victims of the 1998 Omagh Bombing have vowed to continue their fight after the UK government decided not to proceed with a further inquiry into events surrounding the atrocity.

A number of relatives of those who died have been campaigning for a fresh cross-border inquiry following evidence they published on the role that intelligence services both here and in America may have played in the run up to the attack which killed 29 people. Their calls, however, have been rejected by Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers.

In reiterating her sympathies to those affected by the bombing she concluded in no uncertain terms:

“I do not believe that there are sufficient grounds to justify a further review or inquiry above and beyond those that have already taken place or are ongoing.”

Arguing that the best option would be to continue to allow the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland to continue with their investigation into the matter, she continued:

“The fact remains that the Real IRA carried out the bombing in Omagh on 15 August 1998, murdering 29 people and injuring many more. Responsibility is theirs alone. I sincerely hope that the ongoing police investigation will bring to justice those responsible for this brutal crime.”

In announcing that families would be looking to take the matter to judicial review, Stanley McCombe, whose wife Ann, 45, was killed in Omagh, said:

“If they want to try and hide the truth about Omagh, they can.”

“But we’ll flush them out at the end of the day. There are no hiding places. It’s a democratic country and people have to know the truth.”

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden was among the victims of the blast, added:

“We’ll do our talking in court.”

Speaking from New York where he is on an investment trip with the first minister, Sinn Fein deputy first minister, Martin McGuiness, dubbed the secretary of state’s decision a “mistake”, going on to explain:

“I think Theresa Villiers has closed down a demand that the families have had for many years, and a real hope that the families have had that they would get a proper investigation into what happened at that time.”

The first minister, Peter Robinson, added:

“There is still justice required, and because there isn’t going to be an inquiry – and the secretary of state has made that clear – I think that does not stop us from having a more thorough investigation.

“There are a lot of areas that have been raised by the families that need to be thoroughly investigated.”

Not everyone however is in favour of further investigations. Whilst explaining that he wouldn’t be standing in the way of anyone looking for further answers, Kevin Skelton, whose wife Philomena, 39, was killed in the attack, nevertheless concluded:

“I am making my position quite clear and I would have other families behind me in that, who are not interested in a public inquiry because they don’t think it’s going to achieve anything.”

For the Irish government, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has refused to rule out an inquiry initiated south of the border, explaining that his government is still looking at the evidence provided to it by families of the victims.

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