Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness has criticised the British government’s decision not to set up a public inquiry into the Omagh bomb attack which killed 29 people in 1998.
The rejection by the authorities of demands from bereaved relatives has also been criticised from various political quarters, with a number of families indicating they will mount a legal challenge to the move.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said there were insufficient grounds for a further inquiry. She added that she believed a continuing investigation by the Police Ombudsman was the best way to address any outstanding issues.
Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein said of the decision: “I think it’s a mistake. 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.”
Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson said the decision did not rule out a more thorough investigation. He added: “There is still justice required and, because there isn’t going to be an inquiry, 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 investigated.”
Making her announcement, Ms Villiers said families of the victims were divided on the inquiry issue, saying some felt another inquiry would be distressing for them. Kevin Skelton, whose wife was killed, said his family “went through hell to get their lives back on track and felt they did not want any more about Omagh. They want to move on with their lives”.
Other relatives, however, are to continue their campaign for an inquiry, saying they will seek a judicial review of the government’s decision. Stanley McCombe, who lost his wife, said: “They’ve been hiding behind excuses that it would traumatise other families. Does she not understand it traumatises us, because we have been working on this for the last 14 years.”