The Minister for Justice Simon Harris (pictured) has said the Government will look at what action is required on its part in response to a British Government’s announcement of a statutory inquiry into the Omagh bombing in 1998.
The Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris MP told the House of Commons that the independent inquiry would look at whether the bombing could have been prevented.
The move is in response to a Belfast High Court judgment that found issues that gave rise to plausible arguments that the Real IRA bombing could have been prevented.
The judgment called for an investigation in the North, but it also expressed a desire for a simultaneous probe in the Republic of Ireland to look at the same issues.
The court ruling came as a result of a legal challenge by Michael Gallagher, whose son was killed in the bombing.
Heaton-Harris said that the probe would examine four issues identified by the court:
- The handling and sharing of intelligence,
- The use of cell-phone analysis,
- Whether there was advance knowledge or reasonable means of knowledge of the bomb, and
- Whether disruption operations could or should have been mounted, which may have helped prevent the Real IRA’s attack.
Heaton-Harris added that the inquiry would have the full powers provided by the Inquiries Act 2005 – including the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and witnesses, and take evidence under oath.
In a statement, Minister Harris said that he would be discussing the British Government’s announcement with his colleagues, and would consider what further action was needed from the Irish Government in response.
“I look forward to receiving further detail on the proposed UK inquiry as it becomes available,” he added.