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Amnesty calls for Omagh bomb inquiry after collapse of prosecution

“All that families want is the truth. Surely that is not too much to ask?”

Amnesty International has repeated its call for a public inquiry into the circumstances leading to the 1998 Omagh bomb and the investigative failures that followed. The call comes as the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland withdrew charges today against the only remaining suspect charged with the bombing.

On 15 August 1998, 29 people were killed – including a woman who was pregnant with twins - and over 200 people injured when a car bomb exploded in Omagh, County Tyrone. The Real IRA subsequently claimed responsibility.

Amnesty believes that an inquiry is needed in order to investigate comprehensively the circumstances surrounding the Omagh bomb and to ensure lessons are learnt, including from the failure to carry out adequate investigations into the bombing.

In September 2013, the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers ruled out the possibility of holding a public inquiry into the bombing.

Northern Ireland Programme Director of Amnesty International, Patrick Corrigan, said:

“The collapse of this case means that the families bereaved and those injured by the bomb are left without answers about what happened that day and whether it could have been prevented.

“The failure of the State to deliver justice through the criminal courts only reinforces the case for an inquiry to help deliver truth.

“The Secretary of State must now revisit her indefensible decision to refuse an inquiry into the Omagh bombing. 

“The families have been drip-fed information over the years, with new wounds opened each time and with none of the alleged bombers ever being held criminally responsible.

“What the bereaved, and Northern Ireland more broadly, deserve is the fullest account possible of what happened in Omagh, delivered by an independent inquiry, with cooperation from all sides.

“All that families want is the truth. Surely that is not too much to ask?”

Amnesty is urging the UK authorities to establish an independent inquiry without further delay, and called on the Irish and United States governments to offer full cooperation with the work of such an inquiry.

Despite criminal investigations, a civil case, a Police Ombudsman investigation, and other reviews in the UK and Ireland — including one conducted by the UK’s former Intelligence Services Commissioner, the full contents of which have not been made public — serious questions remain outstanding about alleged state failures in the lead up to and the aftermath of the Omagh bomb. In particular, there are unanswered questions concerning the gathering and sharing of intelligence material both between the RUC and MI5 and, internationally, between UK authorities, Ireland’s Garda Síochána, and the United States’ FBI. 

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