10 April 2006

SDLP accuses MI5 of Omagh failure

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
10 April 2006

The Government was accused today of helping MI5 cover up its "abject failure over the Omagh bomb".

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said MI5's failure to give police an agent's warning in the months prior to the Omagh attack should have drawn some response from the Government.

The SDLP is opposed to plans to hand over primacy in intelligence matters in Northern Ireland next year.

PSNI officers told relatives of the Omagh victims earlier this year that David Rupert, an American who infiltrated dissident republican groups, told MI5 in April 1998 that the town was a target.

But MI5 did not pass the information back to the RUC. PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde told the Omagh families recently that police only received the information earlier this year - when a PSNI detective found Rupert's tip-off in FBI files.

"Twenty-nine people were murdered in Omagh," Mr Durkan said.

"Anywhere else, heads would roll over this. But what's MI5's response?

"Eliza Manningham Buller, the head of MI5 has refused even to meet the Omagh families and listen to their concerns."

He said the handover of intelligence primacy to MI5 will undo Patten reforms.

"Just when we have succeeded in ending the force within a force that was Special Branch, the British are looking to create in MI5 a force outside a force away from the scrutiny of the Policing Board and Police Ombudsman," he said.

"Giving MI5 an enlarged role is bad for policing and bad for intelligence gathering. The only people who will benefit will be those who threaten the rule of law and the safety of our society. The SDLP will oppose this change tooth and nail."

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