Belfast Telegraph

Omagh bomb: new Garda probe needed
Tribunal findings are 'a wake-up call'

By Michael McHugh
17 July 2004

PRESSURE to investigate alleged policing failures in the run-up to the Omagh bombing intensified today in the wake of the Donegal Garda corruption scandal.

The damning conclusions of the Morris Tribunal should serve as a wake-up call to southern authorities who ruled out Garda failures prior to the Omagh bomb, a group representing the victims says.

Michael Gallagher, from the Omagh Support and Self-Help Group, was speaking after the tribunal found that two senior officers organised bogus explosives finds in the north west.

Irish Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, said significant reforms were being put in place to tackle Garda corruption and other issues arising from the report.

Last December the minister defended the force as he published the Nally Report which refuted claims that senior gardai had known about the Omagh bomb days before it was planted.

Mr Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the blast which killed 31 people, said the Justice Minister's admissions proved the contentions by Garda informer handler John White needed to be re-investigated.

He pointed out that corruption was not the issue in the Nally report, the contentious issue being whether or not warnings of an impending terror 'spectacular' were passed on to the then RUC.

"However, it is good to see Michael McDowell admitting that there were problems with policing in the South. It is obvious that there are serious problems and this now proves that there needs to be a more thorough investigation into the allegations that John White made," he said.

"The Nally team did not interview Paddy Dixon (the alleged Real IRA informant who warned his Garda handler about the Omagh plot), or the PSNI Omagh investigator Norman Baxter, or the Police Ombudsman investigator who looked at the PSNI's conduct during their inquiries.

"These are all key people that the Nally team did not contact and there were a lot of flaws in their report. This proves that there are serious problems with this report's credibility and it completely demonstrates the need for these serious problems to be investigated."

Mr White sparked the Nally inquiry after he alleged to Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman he had warned his superiors about the likelihood of a "spectacular" in August 1998.

His agent, reported Real IRA car thief Paddy Dixon, is believed to have warned him of the plans for a bomb on a number of occasions.

"We are talking about one of the worst single atrocities in Britain since the Second World War and yet there does not seem to be a sense of urgency.

"It leads you to believe that there is not the political will to resolve this crime," Mr Gallagher added.

Omagh victims have launched a multi-million pound civil law suit against those they believe to be responsible for the bomb. The case is due in January.

One man, Sean Gerard Hoey (34), of Molly Road, Jonesboro, is awaiting trial in connection with the Omagh bomb.

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