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Omagh: 'You can kill 31 people and get away with it'

The Omagh bombing, the Panorama programme and the needs of victims

(report continued from Omagh bombing: 'Sir Hugh can't have it both ways' )

Michael Gallagher lost his 21 year-old son Aiden in the Omagh bomb. With other families he created the Omagh support and self-help group and has campaigned tirelessly for justice for the families.

In opening his presentation to the SDLP seminar, Gallagher notes that "Omagh was not a simple car bomb."

His frustrating experience of seeking for justice over the last ten years has left him aware that there are many stories – told, untold and never to be told – behind the bomb. The role of the intelligence services – before and after the bomb – is one that despite the efforts of Panorama and the inquiry by Sir Peter Gibson, seems likely to remain a story which will never be fully told.

"We have experienced nothing but failure and excuses. Monumental failures," he declares.

He points the finger at the police in Northern Ireland (RUC and their PSNI successors), the Garda Síochána (police in RoI), the intelligence services and both the UK and Irish governments. He notes that when a terrorist bomb killed 19 US service personnel in Dhahran in Saudi Arabia in 1996, a prompt high-level inquiry found the senior US commander in charge of security to have been negligent and ordered that he be denied future promotion and not given any further role in safe-guarding personnel. By contrast, he notes that the senior police officer in Northern Ireland at the time of the bombing:

"Sir Ronnie Flanagan, was promoted to the role of HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, responsible for good, accountable policing in England and Wales."

Chastened by bitter experience, Gallagher believes the "system is incapable of delivering justice", so the Omagh families are now "calling for a judicial, cross-border inquiry into the Omagh bomb."

He has one further, chilling thought: that if the Real IRA bombers who ordered and carried out the 1998 Omagh bomb had been caught, then perhaps Northern Ireland would not be experiencing further killings by the same and similar groups today.

Instead, he believes, the failure to catch the Omagh bombers "sent a message that you can kill thirty-one people and get away with it."

(Blog report continued at: 'How do we respond to a time of threat? Lawfully.')

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