Sunday Life

DNA row hits Omagh probe

By Alan Murray
05 September 2004

STORMONT security minister, Ian Pearson, is to intervene in the row over the Garda's failure to hand over two DNA samples to Omagh bomb investigators.

Ulster's top cops have gone to the minister, after hitting a brick wall in their bid to obtain the samples taken from republican suspects.

Assistant Chief Constable, Sam Kincaid, confirmed to the Policing Board, on Thursday, that 13 months of requests for the samples had not yielded a positive response from Dublin.

ACC Kincaid said the samples were requested, to see if they matched traces of DNA detected during the inquiry into the 1998 Real IRA massacre.

Twenty nine people lost their lives in the worst atrocity of the Troubles.

But, ACC Kincaid and the Chief Constable, have effectively admitted failure in their efforts to persuade the Garda Commissioner to authorise the release of the samples, despite more than a year of requests.

Now the matter will be passed to Mr Pearson, this week, in the hope he can persuade Irish Premier, Bertie Ahern, to authorise the transfer of the samples to Belfast for analysis.

The move is a huge embarrassment for the two governments and the SDLP, which has called for greater co-operation between the Garda and the PSNI to tackle crime.

DUP Policing Board member, Sammy Wilson, rounded on the Garda and the Irish government over the issue.

"We're lectured about bad policing practices, and supposedly bad political practices by Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen, but this issue shows where the real bad policing and bad political practices reside," he said.

"That the Chief Constable and ACC Kincaid have given up on the Garda delivering this potential evidence, underlines the failure of the Garda to co-operate in the biggest single murder investigation on this island. "

And SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, who raised outstanding issues relating to the Omagh investigation directly with Bertie Ahern, earlier this year, said it was disappointing that the Garda hadn't handed over all the evidence held, which might be useful to the PSNI inquiry.

"The promise that everything that could be done would be done to bring the Omagh bombers to justice, is not supported by the decision of the PSNI to pass their request for assistance to the Security Minister.

"I will certainly be raising this very disturbing matter with the Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, and the Taoiseach's office.

"It is inexcusable that any obstacles administrative, or otherwise, should be placed in the path of detectives investigating the Omagh bomb," Mr Durkan said yesterday.

The father of one of the victims, Michael Gallagher, expressed anger and dismay, saying: "Where else in Europe would two supposedly friendly jurisdictions behave like this over a major terrorist atrocity?"

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