27 February 2006

Omagh families demand MI5 meeting

Belfast Telegraph

Anger over alerts not passed to RUC

By Chris Thornton
27 February 2006

Omagh relatives have demanded a meeting with the director general of MI5 in response to revelations that the intelligence agency had a warning about the massacre that was never passed on to police.

Some families of the 29 dead have called for "straight answers" from Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of the secret agency.

And the SDLP has said the findings of a PSNI review should halt plans to make MI5 the lead intelligence agency in Northern Ireland.

Last week it emerged that FBI agent David Rupert, who had penetrated dissident republican ranks, told MI5 in early 1998 - five months before the bombing - that a bomb would be planted in Londonderry or Omagh in a Vauxhall Cavalier car.

That model of car is believed to have been favoured by bombmakers because its suspension could be modified so that it would not appear it was carrying a heavy load.

MI5 tipped off the Garda about the plot and arrests were made.

But the RUC was not told - and on August 15, 1998, the Real IRA exploded the huge bomb that killed 29 and two unborn children.

Omagh relatives were told about the information last week. They were told that the Garda also had key information that was not passed north - an informant told them that a Cavalier had been stolen to order for the Real IRA.

Stanley McComb, whose wife Ann was killed by the bomb, said the families want to meet Ms Manningham-Buller and the Republic's Justice Minister Michael McDowell. "We want straight answers," he told the Sunday Times.

The dissemination of intelligence like the Omagh warning is a crucial issue around Government plans to give MI5 primacy over police in Northern Ireland.

SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood said those plans should now be scrapped.

"Given that MI5 failed to account for what they did in the past means they should have no role in the future," he said.

"MI5 have failed to answer enormous questions around the single biggest atrocity of the conflict. How can this type of organisation have any future role in the North with any degree of public confidence?"

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