BBC wins battle to name Omagh suspects

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The Independent Online

The BBC will tonight name Omagh bomb suspects on its Panorama programme after winning a High Court battle.

The BBC will tonight name Omagh bomb suspects on its Panorama programme after winning a High Court battle.

Panorama will go out as planned at 10pm after a judge ruled its broadcast would not prejudice the fair trial of possible future suspects.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission brought the application to halt transmission.

But Mr Justice Kerr, sitting in the High Court in Belfast, ruled the programme could go ahead.

A BBC News spokesman said: "The BBC is satisfied that the court has found that tonight's Panorama on the Omagh bombing can go ahead.

"The programme has been made with great care. Many of the victims' relatives clearly wanted the programme to be broadcast including those who took part in the programme.

"They and many others hope that the transmission of this programme will help bring to justice those responsible for the Omagh atrocity."

Irish premier Bertie Ahern also signalled his disapproval of the BBC's plans.

He said: "Bandying around names on TV programmes won't help to convict them.

"In actual fact, the legal people say it could well hinder that."

He spoke out after renewing a pledge to do everything possible to track down the Real IRA gang behind the mass murder attack on the Co Tyrone town more than two years ago.

Brendan McGahon, the veteran Irish Fine Gael parliamentary opposition party representative for Dundalk - the Co Louth borderside town where some of the alleged bombers are believed to be based - said he was against the TV move.

He added: "I cannot approve of trial by media. I would not like to be subjected to that myself, so I cannot say differently for other people."

Earlier today, Mr McGahon urged Mr Ahern to consider the imposition of internment-without-trial to combat terrorist actions like the Omagh bombing.

Mr McGahon, a noted hardliner on the law and order issue, said: "My unfortunate county was named last week by the coroner at the inquest into the victims of the bombing as containing the main culprits responsible for this horrific attack.

"Given the fact that the dogs in the street in Dundalk - and, indeed the international Press know the identity of these main perpetrators - Mr Ahern, given the revulsion in Ireland, north and south, and internationally, should consider the re-introduction of internment to lock these animals up."

But he added: "Despite that I cannot believe in trial by the media or TV.

"While I am very much in favour of stern, even repressive legislation, necessary to control terrorism, I cannot go along with this."