THE Secretary of State has stunned relatives of the Omagh bomb atrocity by revealing that she will not hold a public inquiry into the 1998 Real IRA attack.
Theresa Villiers said she did not believe there were sufficient grounds to justify a further inquiry beyond those that have already taken place.
She said: “It was not an easy decision and that all views had been carefully considered”.
Her decision was contained in a letter hand delivered to members of the Omagh Support Group which has been spearheading the campaign for a public inquiry.
MI5, which has the lead role in national security in Northern Ireland for the past number of years, has been opposed to a public inquiry.
It fears the inquiry would expose its level of knowledge prior to the attack from a number of covert agents it had operating at the time inside the Real IRA.
They are also concerned about revealing details of telephone conversations of the gang before and after the attack which were secretly recorded by GCHQ.
One of MI5’s prized agents was American trucker Dave Rupert who was jointly run with the FBI in America.
In a secret email passed to an MI5 handler known only as ‘Norman’ on April 11, 1998, Rupert warned that the Real IRA was in the final phases of putting a massive bomb together, and Omagh was the likely target for attack.
And the email – one of 4,000 ‘secert’ communiques between Rupert and his MI5 handler – identified a Real IRA figure who was under round the clock surveillance.
The memo reads: “Since he is so involved with the present operation we are speaking of and the last known location of the (Letterkenny) Derry or Omagh would 2 suspect viable targets.
“The general mood of the local organisation is that they are trying to make a slash so they can attract fall away members from SF and IRA before they go to 32cs (32 County Sovereignty Committee).
Two other emails were sent a fortnight before Omagh.
They refer to a bomb attack in Banbridge, Co Down on August 1, 1998. It was of a similar size to the Omagh device and detonated, injuring 38 people.
Two days later he sent another email saying he had spoken to those behind the Banbridge bombing.
“A slow night but one thing is confirmed, the bomb on Sat was so to speak one of ours (CAC) was the words used.”
A third email reported that a third individual reported to be involved in the Banbridge attack was “excited” about something due to happen.
“It sounds like whatever was going to happen was going to happen soon, say maybe like in the next few weeks and it brought him out of a low mood he had been in,” wrote Rupert.
“He was excited about the conversation.”
But despite this intelligence, the Secretary of State said on Thursday that she believed that the ongoing investigation by the police ombudsman was the best way to address any outstanding issues relating to the police investigation.
Last month relatives of the victims of the bombing said they were prepared to go to court to force the British and Irish governments to hold a full public inquiry into the bombing.
In her letter, she states: ”
“I believe that the ongoing investigation by the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is the best way to address any outstanding issues relating to the police investigation into the Omagh attack.
“The fact remains that the Real IRA carried out the bombing in Omagh on 15 August 1998, murdering 29 people and injuring many more. Responsibility is theirs alone.
“I sincerely hope that the ongoing police investigation will bring to justice those responsible for this brutal crime.
“I have met representatives of the Omagh Support and Self Help Group, as have a number of my predecessors as Secretary of State. I have offered to meet them again to explain my decision further if they wish.”
Dave Rupert is currently in a witness protection scheme somewhere in the United States.
During the trial of Real IRA boss Michael McKevitt, Rupert revealed details of conversations with cheerleaders of the terror group.
He told a court how Donegal publican Joe O’Neill asked him to supply bomb-making materials to him.
Rupert said O’Neill asked him to send Semtex stuffed inside Teddy bears, detonators inside radios and cordite inside ropes and post them to his sister’s school in Ballyshannon.
However, Rupert said he refused to do it.