Villiers’ Omagh veto challenged in High Court
A high Court judge has ordered a legal challenge in to the government’s refusal to hold a public inquiry into the Omagh bomb to be heard in June.
Twenty-nine people were killed in the August 1998 attack and many more injured, which was carried out by the Real IRA. No one has ever been convicted.
Mr Justice McCloskey is overseeing more than 40 judicial reviews into incidents from Northern Ireland’s past. He will hear the High Court action against former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers’ brought by Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was among those killed, for her refusal in 2013 to order a public inquiry.
Ms Villiers decided against holding a public inquiry on the basis that there were sufficient grounds to justify a further inquiry beyond those that have already taken place.
In her statement at the time explaining her decision, Ms Villiers said: “I believe that the ongoing investigation by the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is the best way to address any outstanding issues relating to the police investigation into the Omagh attack.
“The fact remains that the Real IRA carried out the bombing in Omagh on 15 August 1998, murdering 29 people and injuring many more. Responsibility is theirs alone.”
Mr Justice McCloskey pointed out that proceedings issued by Mr Gallagher are now four years old.
“One of the most telling considerations is that the court has not been addressed, orally or in writing, by any party or any other agency concerning the timetabling of the hearing of the substantive judicial review application,” he said. “This neglect is startling, given the circumstances.”
Listing the substantive hearing for three days in June, he added about the time allocation: “Hopefully an over-estimate.”
In 2012, some of the families of the victims, who believe that the attack was preventable, presented a 77-page report to the British and Irish governments as part of their campaign for a full public inquiry.
In their report, they claimed there was substantial intelligence warning of an attack by dissident republicans, but that this information was not shared between police forces north and south of the border.
In October 2014 Dr Maguire published a report where he found RUC Special Branch withheld some intelligence information from detectives hunting the bombers