Police chief to give strong defence of Omagh inquiry

Sir Ronnie Flanagan, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, will launch a scathing attack today on the ombudsman who last month strongly criticised the investigation into the Omagh bombing.

He will accuse Nuala O'Loan of, "significant factual inaccuracies, misunderstandings, material omissions and unwarranted assumptions" in reaching her conclusion that the RUC had shown, "defective leadership, poor judgement and a lack of urgency".

Sir Ronnie also believes the perceptions generated about his force were, "unwarranted, unjustified and incapable of withstanding scrutiny". His uninhibited language clearly signals no quarter is being given. Theauthorities had hoped the Police Service, which replaced the RUC, could signal a fresh start.

Sir Ronnie will travel to Omagh to meet relatives of some of the 29 people who were killed by the Real IRA bomb in the Co Tyrone town in 1998 and brief them on his response to the ombudsman.

His documents total almost 200 pages and include line-by-line responses to criticism of the force. Sir Ronnie has resisted some of the ombudsman's recommendations, including the suggestion a senior officer from another force should take over the investigation. Instead, an officer from Merseyside has been appointed as an adviser.

His documents also attack the reliability of Kevin Fulton, the informer who claimed he warned of an attack on Omagh. MI5 has confirmed it told Mrs O'Loan it did not regard him as reliable.

Martin Bridger, who is the ombudsman's deputy director of investigations, said despite mistakes he believed the police inquiry could still bring the bombers to court.

Meanwhile, the Bloody Sunday inquiry has announced it will move to the mainland to hear evidence from soldiers after they won a legal appeal against having to travel to Londonderry.

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