Omagh: the cover-up continues?

This blog has previously noted the suspicious shadow cast over intelligence about the Omagh bombing.

There is little doubt who caused the death of 29 people and two unborn children – the 'dissident' republican paramilitary group known as the Real IRA. Indeed, a civil case earlier this year – taken by families of the Omagh dead – specifically found that Michael McKevitt, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly were liable for the bombing.

Yet, there are continued suspicions that UK intelligence services failed to fully share information about crucial telephone intercepts of the Omagh bombers with the police in Northern Ireland – before and after the bombing. These have been most comprehensively reported by the BBC Panorama programme.

It's revelations sparked a government-appointed inquiry by Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissoner, into how intelligence was handled and shared in the Omagh bomb investigation. His investigation has been criticised by Panorama reporter John Ware, who disputes its findings and argues that it failed to address key questions raisd in his reports.

Even so, the report has never been published (only a summary has been released) and access to it has now been denied to the key Westminster committee dealing with Northern Irish matters – the NI Affairs Committee.

Its doughty chairman, Sir Patrick Cormack, had given repeated assurances to the Government that the report would be handled in a very sensitive manner by the Committee:

"The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has offered the Prime Minister every safeguard by waiving the right of all its 13 members to read the report and asking that I should be able to read it on their behalf, under supervision and without taking notes, and with my word that its contents will remain entirely confidential."

Yet it has still been denied access by NI Secretary of State Shaun Woodward.

Sir Patrick – as old school establishment as they come – has now blasted the Government in the most pointed of verbal assaults:

"It really is an insult to the select committee that its chairman should not be allowed to see this report."

Something of an insult to the families of the Omagh bombing victims too, I would argue.

The refusal to let even Sir Patrick have such circumscribed access to this "highly circumscribed" (in the words of John Ware) report will only serve to fuel suspicions that the intelligence services and the Government have something to hide.

The Omagh families' demand for a public inquiry seems more well-founded than ever. If Gordon Brown's government seems determined to deny the shedding of light on this apparently murky affair, will a David Cameron government (presuming the bookies are right) be any more forthcoming?

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