OPINION: OMAGH BOMB FAMILIES DESERVE THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

The scene after the August 1998 Omagh bomb atrocity

The scene after the August 1998 Omagh bomb atrocity

TODAY, 15 years ago, the town of Omagh was bathed in glorious Saturday sunshine.

Families were in the Co Tyrone town for many reasons, some shopping for school clothes, others celebrating the Catholic Feast Day of the Assumption.

Then at 3.10 pm on August 15, 1998, that lovely afternoon was shattered for eternity.

A 250lb Real IRA bomb ripped through all in its wake – children, women, men and a pregnant mother carrying twins became innocent lambs to the slaughter.

The horror of such an attack made international headlines around the world.

Fifteen years on, those families are still tirelessly and relentlessly trying to get justice for their loved ones.

Everyone remembers the words of police chiefs and political leaders in the wake of the bomb: no stone will be left unturned until the perpetrators were brought to justice. We will hunt them down. Every resource is being made available.

Sadly, they were hollow words in the eyes of the families.

Not a single person has been convicted of the atrocity that claimed the lives of 29 people and two unborn babies.

It is unlikely anyone ever will.

The only person charged and tried in Northern Ireland, Sean Hoey, walked free after a judge threw out the case against him because of police and forensic incompetence in the case.

It was shambolic in the least and a gross affront to natural justice at the worst.

Last week, the Omagh Self Help and Support Group, backed by human rights group Amnesty International, called again for a full public inquiry into the atrocity.

At heart of their calls is the shadowy world of intelligence, informants and agent handlers.

The families are convinced that the police forces on both sides of the border along with MI5 and other intelligence-gathering branches knew in advance that an attack was going to take place in Omagh.

But their attempts to get at the truth have been rebuffed at every turn by Prime Minister after Prime Minister, Secretary of State after Secretary of State.

And the reason why? They claim it is too costly.

Omagh town centre seconds before bomb went off. Spanish father and son picture miraculously survived the attack

Omagh town centre seconds before bomb went off. Spanish father and son picture miraculously survived the attack

So what price do successive governments and political leaders put on a human life?

Does justice not demand that those who quest for the truth are given honest answers?

Or is one agent inside a paramilitary group more precious than the lives of 29 men, women, children and unborn twins?

Sadly, that is the case.

In the years before Pat Finucane was murdered, the RUC Special Branch decided that was it was better to protect a source inside the UDA than a solicitor.

Its thinking was that if they told Mr Finucane about a threat to his life, he wouldn’t keep the information quiet and would tell the media, thus putting the UDA informant’s life at risk.

That in essence is how those in charge of intelligence gathering think and act. What they call ‘the greater good’.

But the ‘greater good’ to the families of those innocent victims of the Omagh bomb would be to open up their files to scrutiny by a public inquiry into the worst single terrorist atrocity of the Troubles.

If the faceless people at the top the UK’s intelligence-gathering apparatus have nothing to hide, why not hold a public inquiry?

Why hide behind the nauseating excuse of costs? More money is wasted on consultants’ reports in the Stormont Assembly that would take to run a public inquiry into Omagh.

How much money have politicans wasted over plans for the peace centre at the Maze prison which the DUP kicked into touch on Thursday?  Several million at a conservative estimate.

Let’s back the families in their search for truth and justice.

They deserve not just justice, but the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

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