Dublin ̵1; British Government Was granted the right A new inquiry into the 1998 car-bomb attack in the Northern Ireland town of Omagh opened on Thursday, a long-delayed commitment that could expose security rifts on both sides of the Irish border.
On 15 August 1998, 29 people were killed in an explosion carried out by an Irish Republican Army splinter group nicknamed “The Real IRA”. Most of those who died that day were women and children, including three generations of a family and a mother pregnant with twins.
The attack became the deadliest outage in Northern Ireland’s entire three-decade conflict, which killed more than 3,600 people before a paramilitary ceasefire in the mid-1990s. This came barely four months after the Good Friday Peace Agreement for the UK region, a landmark agreement that the Real IRA had hoped to undermine. there has never been anyone successfully prosecuted for torture.
While British and Irish counter-terrorism officials had already identified senior figures in the Real IRA and were paying informers to help keep them under surveillance, the attackers collected £500 throughout the Republic of Ireland that day. K were able to operate the car bomb. The border aided by scout cars, as they had done several times earlier that year to detonate bombs in other towns in Northern Ireland, only thanks to rapid police clearance.
This time they raised their arms on Omagh’s crowded Market Street on a bright Saturday afternoon, crossed the border back unhindered, and issued vague telephone warnings that misled the police. Shoppers, tourists and staff were driven away from Omagh’s hilltop courtyard, the suspected target – and unwittingly in the path of the bomb.
Since the attack, survivors and relatives of the dead have pursued a number of legal avenues in a search for truth and justice, led by Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was among those killed in the blast. The British government took Thursday’s decision only because Gallagher scored a victory, citing Britain’s commitments under European human rights law 2021 decision The Belfast High Court has been told that British and Irish counter-terrorism officers monitoring the Real IRA have failed to have a “real possibility of preventing the Omagh bombing”.
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, who has been in the post since September, told the House of Commons in London that the 2021 decision left the UK government no choice but to comply.
Gallagher told reporters that the inquiry, which he has sought since 2001, was to cause “embarrassment for the British government and also for the Irish government”, especially given how his counter-terrorism chiefs handled the “raw” intelligence from agents,
Heaton-Harris said the inquiry would be given the power to compel witnesses to testify under oath. It will, he said, examine how British and Irish police and security agencies handle and share intelligence; analysis of information obtained from cell phone activity of Real IRA members; the extent of his advance knowledge of the preparation of the bomb; and whether security barriers “could or should have been extended” on the day of the attack.
The UK move put immediate pressure on the Irish government to do the same. Heaton-Harris, who discussed her decision by phone with Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin on Wednesday night, said she expected the inquiry to be cross-border in nature and would discuss it in more detail with Martin shortly.
“There is no way the British government can force the government of Ireland to do anything,” he told Jim Shannon, an MP from the Democratic Unionist Party who welcomed UK move.
in Dublin, also Martin welcomed it – and indicated that there was a possibility of reciprocal exchange of Irish.
Martin said the Irish government would “wait for further details from the UK government, particularly on the terms of reference for their investigation,” before he, Justice Minister Simon Harris and the rest of cabinet would decide on “next steps”.