03 December 2005

No Amnesty For Omagh Bombers

Derry Journal

Friday 2nd December 2005

Relatives of the Omagh bomb victims claim to have been assured by the British Prime Minister that no one connected with the 1998 atrocity will be granted amnesty. The father of Buncrana schoolboy, James Barker (12) - who was killed in the blast - was among the representatives of the 29 victims and those injured who met with Tony Blair this week.
Speaking after the 45 minute meeting at 10 Downing Street, Victor Barker from Surrey said the families had secured an unequivocal promise that amnesty would not be granted to those responsible. "The assurance we sought was that if there were any members of Sinn Fein or IRA that were involved in the Omagh bomb, whether or not they are on the run, they would receive no amnesty in respect of the 1998 atrocity in Omagh," said Mr Barker. "That assurance was given us unequivocally," he added.
he long awaited meeting was requested by the victim's representatives to press the case for a full crossborder public inquiry into the blast. However, they were told that an inquiry would be impossible until current civil and criminal court cases arising from the blast were completed, but did not rule out meeting their request after that point. Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden, 21, was killed in the no-warning attack, said Mr Blair had been "very supportive and as helpful as he could have been".
But he said Mr Blair did not seem to be "up to speed" with some details of the inquiry --something that was acceptable, given the complexity of the case. He added that Mr Blair had offered the assistance of a senior civil servant to help the families with their work and had promised to look at a dossier which they had prepared making the case for an inquiry. "I think there are certain undertakings that the Prime Minister has given this afternoon that we will hold him to, and I have no doubt that he will carry them through. "I think we had a fair hearing and we put the case strongly, so we are very happy with the outcome of the meeting. "We are realistic enough to know that we would never have a public inquiry in any case until the current cases are dealt with."
Mr Gallagher said that the families were determined to press on with their fight for the truth, no matter how long it took. "Some of the people close to the Prime Minister have been a bit naive in the way they have handled the Omagh bomb and they have underestimated the families 'determination to get to the truth," he said. Mr Gallagher said that he reminded Mr Blair of his comment in the wake of the bombing that there would be "no hiding place" for those responsible.
Mr Gallagher said that Mr Blair did not rule out a further meeting once the current court cases were settled, although he pointed out that he may no-longer Prime Minister at that point. One man is currently facing charges in connection with the Co Tyrone blast, which resulted in the largest single loss of life of the Troubles. But the trial of Sean Hoey,36, of Jonesborough,CoArmagh, is unlikely to go ahead until well into next year.

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