Omagh report confirms the authorities had the bombers in their sights

There’s sympathy for the families that many things went lethally wrong

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The new report into the bombing of Omagh, and what happened before and after, will do nothing to dispel the widespread belief that many questions persist about the handling of the case by the security forces.

The report will reinforce the argument that the authorities had the dissident republican bombers under close surveillance in the run-up to the atrocity. By doing so it will keep alive the thought that the attack might have been prevented.

Its publication will keep interest alive in the multiple murders which have given rise to multiple long-running legal sequels. While no one has been specifically convicted of the attack, a number of republicans are being pursued in an unprecedented civil action.

Last month one bombing suspect who was unsuccessfully pursued in the civil action met his death in an accident on a building site.

Seamus McKenna, who was 58, was fatally injured when he fell from scaffolding while working on the roof of a school in the Irish Republic. His funeral was attended by a large number of police intent of preventing a dissident republican show of force.

A republican organisation described McKenna as “an ardent supporter of the continued insurgency”, saying he was a lifelong republican.

Meanwhile Mickey McKevitt, who was leader of the Real IRA at the time of the Omagh bombing, remains behind bars in the Republic after failing in  several legal attempts to secure his release.

Despite the lingering suspicions surrounding the case, Omagh relatives face formidable obstacles in  their campaign for a full, wide-ranging inquiry. It is obvious that in both London and Dublin there is no appetite for a new investigation.

For one thing, what has so far come to light has already strongly suggested serious shortcomings in the work  of police on both sides of  the border, and in the  performance of other security agencies such as MI5. Both the British and Irish governments are nervous that additional unwelcome and uncomfortable information would almost certainly emerge during a new inquiry.

The other argument advanced against a new investigation is that of money, since such exercises have proved costly and time-consuming. The tribunal into Bloody Sunday, when civilians died in a military operation in 1972, cost millions of pounds and lasted for many years.

There is much generalised public sympathy for the Omagh families, together with a distinct belief that many things went lethally wrong and that the perpetrators should be behind bars.

But there is little sign of any decisive surge of public pressure in support of their stance that only a full inquiry could get at the truth.

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