Mandelson says Omagh report is 'very poor work'

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The Independent Online

The former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson launched a scathing attack on the Omagh bomb inquiry report yesterday, describing it as "a very poor piece of work".

Mr Mandelson criticised the police ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, whose report into the Omagh bombing accused police of failing in their duties before and after the attack, which killed 29 people. He told BBC Radio 4's Today: "It falls below the quality and standards of objectivity and rigour required in a report of this kind.

"It is a very, very serious subject and the ombudsman is making the most extreme conclusions about the Chief Constable ... she is accusing him of defective leadership, poor judgement and a lack of urgency. That is very serious and it is because of the seriousness of those charges I have decided to speak up."

He criticised Ms O'Loan, saying: "I think she has displayed a certain lack of experience and possibly gullibility. I know others have charged her with being naive. I think that is too strong."

He added: "I don't think this has been done well. I think there is insufficient rigour in the report and I am afraid her credibility has been damaged."

Mr Mandelson said Ms O'Loan had toned down an earlier draft of the report, "so I shudder to think what it was like originally."

Pat Doherty, a Sinn Fein MP, said: "The report highlights in some detail the very core of what has been wrong with policing and still is wrong with policing in the North."

He insisted that Sir Ronnie Flanagan, Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, had been given the opportunity to comment on the report. He said: "He had the document for some time to make comments and he did not make those comments."

Sir Ronnie told the same programme: "The draft report reaches very sweeping conclusions about me without me ever having been interviewed, without those conclusions ever having been put to me and without me ever having been given an opportunity to respond.

"I had some interaction but nobody ever told me I was under investigation. Nobody ever told me there were emerging conclusions about me.

"Nobody ever put them to me and when I received the draft I was given one week to reply, only on factual accuracy when I very politely wrote to request more time."