Omagh bomb: Relatives deserve apology on ruling delay

Omagh bomb: Relatives deserve apology on ruling delay

First Minister Arlene Foster has said relatives of those murdered in the 1998 Omagh bomb deserve an apology over the length of time a court is taking to rule on a call for a public inquiry.

The case began in 2013 and concluded almost two years ago, but there has been no judgement.

The lord chief justice’s office has blamed the situation on the assessment of “sensitive” documents.

After meeting some of the families, Mrs Foster said the delay is “inordinate”.

Twenty-nine people – including a woman pregnant with twins – were killed in the Real IRA bomb in August 1998.

It was the biggest single atrocity in the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The legal action, brought by Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was one of the victims, followed a decision by the government to reject the need for a public inquiry eight years ago.

It said there had been multiple investigations, including those involving the Police Ombudsman.

Central to Mr Gallagher’s judicial review case are claims that intelligence from MI5 and the police could have been drawn together to prevent the Real IRA attack.

There were national security issues around the hearing of evidence, which delayed matters, but it concluded in July 2019.

In October, Mr Gallagher was told to expect movement before Christmas, but nothing happened.

“From day one this has been dragged out,” Mr Gallagher said.

“We are getting no younger.

“We want to do other things in life but we cannot move on until we get answers.”

He said the process could be “simplified” if the government granted an inquiry.

“We support the police.

“We support the intelligence service.

“We just want answers – why things did not happen in the way they should have happened in the lead up to the Omagh bomb.”

He has raised the case with political parties and met the DUP leader within the past few days.

Mrs Foster said: “I do think that he, and all of the Omagh victims, deserve an apology.

“I think it is really sad that they find themselves in a situation where they have not been able to get answers.”

In a statement, the lord chief justice’s office said the judgement was “taking longer than initially anticipated”.

It said the delay was due to the “sensitive nature of the material involved in the case”.

It added: “The documents which the judge has to consider are stored in a secured area which can only be accessed during restricted hours and not at weekends.

“The judge’s access to this material has to be scheduled around his workload in the High Court.

“He would like to reassure Mr Gallagher that he is reviewing this material thoroughly to ensure that he is taking into account all relevant evidence.”

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