Northern Ireland: Amnesty calls for public inquiry into Omagh - 15 years after deadly bomb

Amnesty International today joined bereaved families in calling for an independent public inquiry to be established into the circumstances leading to the Omagh bomb and the investigative failures that followed.  

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.

Amnesty urged the UK authorities to establish an independent inquiry without 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 domestic agencies (for example between the RUC and MI5) and international agencies (for example between UK authorities, Ireland’s Garda Síochána, and the United States’ FBI).

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

“Fifteen years since the bomb ripped through Omagh, taking lives and causing injury, the families bereaved and those injured by the bomb are still left seeking the full truth about what happened that day and whether it could have been prevented.

“Beyond addressing the families’ need for answers, there remains a broader public interest in establishing such an inquiry, in order to prevent such a tragedy recurring.”

The Omagh Support and Self Help Group has commissioned a report assessing the known facts of what happened in Omagh and the obstacles to, and failures in, investigations over the years. The report highlights the questions that still remain following gaps that have been left by previous investigations.

Patrick Corrigan concluded:

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

“It is doubly sad that the bereaved families and those injured have now had to commission their own report as result of the many partial investigations, each one of which opens up new questions. What they, 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.”

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