Irish government to consider action after UK announces Omagh bomb inquiry

The Irish government has been accused of shirking its responsibilities on investigating whether the blast could have been prevented.

British Irish Intergovernmental Conference in Dublin
British Irish Intergovernmental Conference in Dublin

The Irish government is to discuss what action it will take after the UK government announced it would establish an inquiry into the 1998 Omagh bomb.

It comes as the father of a victim of the attack accused the Irish government “running away from their responsibilities”.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris announced on Thursday afternoon that there would be an independent inquiry into the dissident republican blast which hit the Co Tyrone town on August 15 1998.

The attack killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, and injured hundreds of others.

In 2021, a Belfast High Court judge recommended that the UK government carry out an investigation into alleged security failings in the lead up to the attack, and that a similar probe should be established by the Irish government.

Justice Minister Simon Harris said they would await to see the details of the UK’s inquiry before announcing what action they would take, but said it is those who carried out the attack who “carry responsibility for the brutal act”.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden died in the Real IRA bombing, took the legal challenge that resulted in the judge’s direction.

“I would say that the Irish government is running away from their responsibilities here, they need to engage,” Mr Gallagher told Good Morning Ulster on Thursday ahead of the announcement.

He said there was a “strong cross-border element” to the attack and that the bomb had originated in the Republic.

“So the government in Dublin would also need to talk to the families,” he said.

Mr Gallagher said that he was “hugely disappointed” after the Taoiseach did not respond to an invitation handed over in person a year ago to meet the Omagh bomb families to discuss the judgment.

“We have not to this date had any communication from the Taoiseach.”

He added: “We’re not vindictive.

“The British government is not my enemy, the Irish government is not my enemy, we support the police on both sides of the border.

“We just need a thorough investigation to understand what happened.”

Following the announcement, Mr Harris said he would discuss with his fellow ministers what further action the Irish government needs to take following the UK government’s decision.

“What happened at Omagh was an unspeakable and brutal act of cruelty.

“The terrorists who carried it out had simply no sense of humanity and they displayed a complete and shocking disregard for life itself.

“It is they who carry responsibility for this brutal act.”

“We will never forget those who lost their lives, those who were injured and the families whose suffering for their loved ones continues.

“The Irish Government is deeply conscious of the enduring suffering and hardship that survivors of Troubles-related attacks bear.

“The Government has always sought to acknowledge and address the legitimate needs and expectations of victims’ families and survivors of Troubles-related attacks.

“It is the case, of course, that a number of reviews/investigations have previously taken place in this jurisdiction with regard to Omagh.

“I will be discussing today’s announcement with my Government colleagues and we will, of course, consider what further action is required on our part in response to the UK Government’s decision to establish an inquiry.

“I look forward to receiving further detail on the proposed UK inquiry as it becomes available.”

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