28 February 2006

Omagh inquest may look again at evidence

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
28 February 2006

The inquest into the Omagh bombing may have to be re-examined because of new evidence about ignored warnings, the chairman of a victims' group said today.

Michael Gallagher, chairman of the Omagh Self Help Group, said he has written to Coroner John Leckey to draw his attention to evidence that MI5 and the Garda failed to pass intelligence to the RUC - either to prevent the bombing or help the investigation afterwards.

Mr Gallagher says the evidence was also withheld from the 2000 inquest into the deaths.

Last week senior PSNI officers told the families that MI5 had been told in 1998 by American agent David Rupert, who had penetrated the Real IRA, that dissident republicans were preparing to bomb Londonderry or Omagh with a Vauxhall Cavalier car.

That warning was given five months before the August 15, 1998, blast that killed 29 and two unborn children.

The PSNI officers also reported that an informer told Garda Special Branch that a Vauxhall Cavalier had been stolen for the Real IRA just before the bombing. The car was used to carry the bomb to the town.

Mr Gallagher says police also told the families last week that intelligence agencies knew the Real IRA had cut its warning time about bombs from one hour to half an hour, but the RUC had not been told.

The victims' chairman, whose son Aidan was among the dead, said he has written to Mr Leckey because "it's important that the coroner is aware that information was withheld from the inquest."

"The coroner has a right to the information that was available," he said.

Mr Gallagher said he was not taking a view on whether the inquest should be reopened. "If he wants to make a statement or reopen part of the case, that's a decision for him," he said.

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