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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
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

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick