06 May 2006

Inquiry rejected into MI5's Omagh lapse

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
05 May 2006

The Government has rejected demands for an inquiry into MI5's failure to pass on an Omagh bomb warning to police.

Security Minister Shaun Woodward told SDLP leader Mark Durkan that the Government does not believe there is a case for further investigation into the lapse - which only emerged over seven years after the massacre.

In a written parliamentary statement, Mr Woodward also again rejected pleas from Omagh relatives for personal explanation from the head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller.

Mr Durkan accused the Minister of dodging the issue - and a spokesman for some Omagh relatives said they will continue to pursue a cross-border public inquiry.

"A lot of people hope that we will move on, in their words," said Michael Gallagher, whose son was among 29 killed in the bombing. "They need to know we will not forget, nor will we allow others to forget."

Mr Durkan said: "This just makes the assurances that no stone would be left unturned - given to the families in the aftermath of the atrocity - ring very hollow.

"The fact is more and more questions have arisen that should concern not just the families but the wider public interest."

Mr Woodward rejected the calls for an inquiry after Mr Durkan asked him about the PSNI's recent discovery of the MI5 failure.

Detectives found records in America showing that FBI agent David Rupert - who had penetrated the Real IRA - had warned MI5 about a plot to bomb Omagh in April 1998, four months before the attack that killed 29 people, along with unborn twins, and injured 200.

But MI5 did not pass the warning along to the RUC, even though the police were supposed to be the lead intelligence agency in Northern Ireland.

Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde has told the Policing Board the warning would not have helped detectives investigating the attack.

But Omagh relatives have questioned whether police would have reacted differently on the day of the attack if they had known Omagh had already been chosen as a dissident target.

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