Omagh bomb families hit out as Government censors inquiry

Families of Omagh bomb victims hit out at the government today for censoring an official probe that examined whether vital intelligence was withheld from detectives hunting the Omagh bombers.

The relatives demanded to know what the state was trying to hide after a parliamentary committee that conducted its own inquiry into the bombing revealed the Prime Minister had denied them access to the review of the security services' role.



The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has called for a fresh investigation into the part played by intelligence agents in the yet unsolved dissident republican attack 12 years ago and if crucial data that could have led to arrests was kept from police officers.



But after outlining the inquiry findings at Stormont this morning, committee chair Sir Patrick Cormack criticised Gordon Brown for only letting them see a heavily edited version of the government's own report on the controversial claims carried out by Intelligence Services Commissioner Sir Peter Gibson.



Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden was of the 29 people killed in the Real IRA attack, said this was not acceptable and reiterated the bereaved families' long-standing demand for a full public inquiry into the bombing.



"This (the committee) is the watchdog on government in Northern Ireland and here they are saying there are a number of very serious deficiencies, that the government is refusing to co-operate, the Prime Minister did not allow Sir Patrick to see the Gibson report in private, even in the House of Commons.



"I think the honest average man in the street will always say there must be a reason, other than the reason that it could give an advantage to terrorists.



"Sir Patrick wasn't going to give any advantage to a terrorist so there's not much left for families to believe other than that government have something there that's going to embarrass them and they don't want to disclose that to the families.



"That's the only possible answer that I can imagine."



Downing Street defended the decision not to release Sir Peter's report to the committee, highlighting that the chair of the UK Intelligence and Security Committee Kim Howells had seen it.



"Obviously, when national security is involved, there can only be a limited number of people with who that can be shared," said a spokesman for Mr Brown.



No one has ever been successfully convicted of the Omagh bomb, with the only man jailed in connection with the attack, 57-year-old Co Louth builder Colm Murphy, cleared last month after a retrial in Dublin.



However, last year four men, including Murphy, were found liable for the bombing in a landmark civil case taken by the victims' families.



While the affairs committee stopped short of calling for a public inquiry, Mr Gallagher said the truth of what happened on that day in August 1998 could only be found through such a judicial hearing.



"I think it is important that we only have one further inquiry and that should be an overarching inquiry that looks at what happened on both sides of the border and moves it forward," he said.



Godfrey Wilson, whose 15-year-old daughter Lorraine was killed, echoed his call.



"We're looking for a cross border public inquiry, a full judicial public inquiry," he said.



"There's too many questions on both sides of the border - before, during and after the tragedy - that haven't been answered.



"I feel it would help my life to know how the things progressed."



The committee undertook its inquiry into the security services' role following claims in a BBC documentary that the Government's listening station GCHQ had monitored suspects' mobile phone calls as they drove to Omagh from the Irish Republic on the day of the atrocity.



Panorama said this information was never passed to Royal Ulster Constabulary detectives assigned to the case.



The subsequent review by Sir Peter Gibson rejected many of Panorama's assertions.



However, only an edited version of the commissioner's report has ever been made public.



Committee chair Sir Patrick said he accepted Sir Peter's assurance there was nothing in the full version that contradicted the abridged format, but said the government's decision to deny him access would not assure public confidence.



"Sir Peter Gibson is a man who came and gave evidence to our committee, he himself made it quite plain that he would have no personal objection to my seeing his report," he said.



"He assured us that there was nothing in the unpublished version that would contradict the published version. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State (Shaun Woodward) and the chair of security and intelligence committee (Kim Howells) have also given us that assurance.



"We are not in any way saying that these men aren't telling the truth, far from it, but what we are saying is seeing the full report would enable me to assure my colleagues in the committee and in turn assure a wider public that everything had been properly taken into account."



After reviewing the edited summary of the Gibson report, committee members agreed with the commissioner's claim that information obtained by GCHQ was not monitored in 'real time' and therefore could not have prevented the bombing.



But it raised concerns about the data flow after the attack, especially whether names of the suspected bombers were known and, if so, why they were not passed to police officers.



In particular the inquiry said there was a need to establish the part played by RUC Special Branch - the police's anti-terrorism unit - and whether it was handed data by GCHQ but failed to pass it on to RUC colleagues in the Crime Investigation Department (CID) who were working on the case.



As well as calling for a fresh examination of the intelligence, the committee's report also:

* Found that questions remain about whether the bombing could have been pre-empted by action against terrorists who carried out earlier bombings in 1998

* Called for a definitive statement on whether the names of those thought to have been involved in the bombing were known to the intelligence services, Special Branch, or the RUC in the days immediately after the bombing, and if so, why no arrests resulted

* Asked the Government to justify the argument that the public interest is best served by keeping telephone intercepts secret rather than using them to bring murderers to justice

* Called on the UK's Intelligence and Security Committee to reconsider how any intercept intelligence was or was not used

* Recommended that the Government considers providing legal aid for the victims of terrorism if they bring civil actions against suspected perpetrators once criminal investigation has failed to bring a prosecution.



Panorama claimed intelligence officers had tracked the movements of the bombers' car and a scout car on their way to Omagh.



However, in his review Sir Peter said technology was not advanced enough in 1998 to do that and insisted the vehicles were not being followed in 'real time', meaning the information could not have thwarted the bombing.



Sir Peter said information on the bombers taken from telephone intercepts examined in the wake of the event was passed to police. But he did not reveal whether this data included written transcripts of the phone calls.



He also said there was no evidence before him that police in the Republic had warned the RUC of a likely attack.

Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
News
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
peopleFilm star says he is 'not interested in making money anymore'
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksChristmas comes early for wizard fans
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
news
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
filmsOculus Rift offers breathtakingly realistic simulation of zero gravity
Sport
footballAccording to revelations from Sergio Aguero's new biography
Life and Style
tech

News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker