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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 15:20 GMT
Omagh bombing: What do you think of the report?
The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland has recommended that a senior officer from an outside police force be asked to conduct an investigation into the Omagh bombing.

The 1998 bombing of the County Tyrone town left 29 dead and hundreds injured. The Omagh bombing - later admitted by the dissident republican Real IRA - was the worst single incident in the 30 years of the Troubles.

The ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, concludes, in her controversial report, "with great sadness" that the judgement and leadership of the chief constable and the assistant chief constable of the crime division was seriously flawed.

She says that as a result of that, the chances of detaining and convicting the Omagh bombers have been significantly reduced.

What do you think of the ombudsman's findings? What measures do you think should now be taken to bring the Omagh bombers to justice?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

It frightens me to think how many more people would have slaughtered by terrorists over the years if it hadn't been for the bravery and efficiency of the RUC

Adrian Herring, Northern Ireland
During their existence the RUC had to deal with many accusations made against by the Nationalist and Republican communities in Northern Ireland and their supporters elsewhere. Now that the terrorists have got their demand to disband the RUC, the are still not content. I feel that this report is just an ongoing attempt to discredit what was, in my opinion, the most effective policing service in the world. I can only imagine how those RUC officers who were on duty in Omagh on the day of the bombing now feel by the accusations made in this report, after helping to lead the rescue operation and pick of the bodies of the victims that day. It frightens me to think how many more people would have slaughtered by terrorists over the years if it hadn't been for the bravery and efficiency of the RUC during this time. This report is a serious attempt to deflect where the real blame for the Omagh atrocity lies, and that is squarely on the shoulders of the so called 'Real' IRA and their associates in other Republican groups.
Adrian Henning, Northern Ireland, UK

The Chief Constable and special branch attempted to prevent the Omagh Investigation team from gaining access to the information.

P Baker, Ireland
What is evident from the Ombudsman's report is not that the Omagh bombing could definitely have been prevented, but that the Chief Constable and special branch attempted to prevent both the Omagh Investigation team and the Ombudsman's investigators from gaining access to the information that special branch had. That the internal RUC Review of the investigation was also ignored is a damning indictment of the power special branch has within what is supposed to be a Police Service. The fact that the Ombudsman has been able to uncover all of these facts is a tribute to the thoroughness of her investigators and to the office she holds. Far from vindicating Sinn Fein's refusal to endorse the new structures the transparency that the Ombudsman has brought to the workings of the PSNI underlines the fact that we are already at a new beginning to Policing here.
P Baker, Ireland

THE RUC did not bomb Omagh. It wasn't Special Branch who devised the idea of planting a car bomb in a crowded town centre on one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Nor was it Ronnie Flanagan who parked that car that day and gingerly pushed the door to and then walked off down the street past the women and the children, the elderly people and the babies, knowing full well that they and hundreds of other innocents like them were now in the most grievous mortal danger.

It's important to remember these things because in the midst of all the high emotion and anger expressed this week, it has seemed at times as if we lost sight of that one overriding fact - that it was the Real IRA who bombed Omagh. And while it may be difficult for the rest of us to imagine ourselves inside their minds to try to fathom how in God's name they could conceive and perpetrate such evil, it is all too easy to guess how they feel about the row over the ombudsman's report.

They and their counterparts in other republican and loyalist terrorist groups must be gloating and sniggering over every delicious moment of it - at that unlikely turnaround which now sees those who have saved so many lives being tainted with blame for the worst atrocity of the Troubles.

This week, without a trace of obvious irony, Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA which planted many a similar car bomb, was calling for an independent inquiry into the police actions over Omagh. It was a bit like the political representatives of the Taliban demanding a public inquiry into the NYPD's inability to prevent the al-Qaeda attack on the Twin Towers.

The relatives of Omagh deserve justice. But the police who lost over 300 officers in the fight against terrorism deserve fair play too. The bitterness and acrimony of the current row should not be allowed to obscure the fact that whatever the failings of the system, the police were trying to save lives - unlike the men who drove that car that day into Omagh.
Rob Steenson, Northern Ireland

We must never forget that it was the police themselves who were on the front line and that the information available to them was scant at best.

Maurice, Northern Ireland
You can imagine the outrage if someone was to reason that it was due to the ineptitude of the CIA etc that the attacks on the Twin Towers occurred. Surely we must never forget that it was the police themselves who were on the front line and that the information available to them was scant at best. It could equally be argued that if there had been more co-operation from the nationalist community maybe the bomb would not have occurred. However, the reality remains that the motivation for it was with the Real IRA - a group of cold evil inhumane killers who were hell-bent on murder.
Maurice, Northern Ireland

No one can dispute the fact that the Real IRA are responsible for setting off the bomb and for murdering and maiming innocent people, they did an evil thing and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. What is also indisputable is that it is the responsibility of the police ombudsman to investigate the police response to the bombing in light of accusations of wrongdoing. She did her job and found that certain information was not given to the people who could have made a difference and possibly prevented loss of life. If she buried the report or never did the investigation then the same thing could happen again. Hopefully this will improve the ability of the officers in the Police Service to get the information they need to better do their jobs.
Val Hoyle, OR. USA

As a lawyer specialising in regulatory matters I am deeply disturbed at the Ombudsman's apparent failure to give those whom she wished to criticize adequate time to comment on the facts as she found them and on her conclusions.
Brian, UK

Instead of Sinn Fein crowing on the sidelines about the alleged ineptitude of the RUC, perhaps they would assist its successor, or indeed the Garda in helping to bring convictions. The fact that Sinn Fein is on public record in ruling out any cooperation whatsoever makes, in my opinion, that party as complicit in the Omagh tragedy as the main perpetrators.
Andrew, United Kingdom

Please, let's not turn the blame on the RUC

Jason Bratton, Omagh, Northern Ireland
Surely such a damning report on the conduct of the RUC regarding these events should have been more thoroughly investigated than it appears to have been. It will also do nothing to ease the suffering of the victims of this atrocity. Please, let's not turn the blame on the RUC. It lies firmly at the feet of the murderous scum that planned and executed such an unforgivable act.
Jason Bratton, Omagh, Northern Ireland

Attacks on the Chief Constable and his officers who fought bravely for thirty years against tyrants and murderers in the North show how insensitive and ignorant Mrs O'Loan is, not only to the families of Omagh but also to those individuals who fought in vain to preserve life on that horrific day.
Colin R. McCormick, Republic of Ireland

Does anybody really think Omagh was the primary target for this Real IRA outrage? I doubt it, what political gain would there be? After all Omagh is a mainly Nationalist town. I can remember distinctly the day of the Omagh bomb. I was driving the sixteen miles from Dromore Co. Down to Lisburn, Co. Antrim, and was stopped by the security forces on no less than three occasions. There was a very high state of alert. Perhaps the target was changed at the last minute by the murderers due to the high security force presence.
Dr Paul Mackey, London, England

It looks biased and unfair

Alan Cameron, Scotland
This appears to those outside the divide in Northern Ireland, that Sinn Fein supporters are engaged in political point scoring. It looks biased and unfair. Put a neutral officer in charge and investigate all the circumstances. However if that investigation reveals that Ronnie Flanagan is not culpable, then Nuala O' Lone should be sacked for such blatant misrepresentation. If she is prepared to attack the Chief Constable then she has to be prepared to put her own job on the line. Only in Northern Ireland could the diversionary propaganda be put forward in such a way that suggests the RUC were somehow to blame for letting the bomb through. The Real IRA blew up 29 people, now it appears that they want to finish the job they intended, by causing as much damage as possible to the new PSNI.
Alan Cameron, Scotland

As the Real IRA perceives its struggle with the UK as a war, can't we start treating it as such? If we did, known guilty parties could be tried under military law, rather than civilian law, which doesn't really take into consideration the severity of these people's crimes. The Real IRA benefits from waging war on a sleeping country that is obsessed with being politically correct and following civil law to the nth degree. Our government doesn't fight for the rights of the UK civilian because it is obsessed with bending over backwards to give these terrorists what they want.
Dave, UK

All such reports should be preceded by information regarding the background of the person compiling the report, who was consulted, who was invited to give an opinion and who actually gave an opinion. This information is important owing to the effect a report of this nature can have on society
Vic Price, Scotland

This looks like just the kind of news NI does not need. But at least ineptitude and incompetence are not as bad as cold blooded murder. Clearly a lot of work needs to be done in the police service, but I'll wait until the Police have had a chance to reply to the report.
Michael, Dublin, Ireland

I think the ombudsman's report needs to be thoroughly investigated, perhaps by an outside chief constable. However no matter what the report says one thing must be remembered. The RUC did not plant the Omagh bomb.
Mark Walsh, NI

Getting the bombers to justice is only part of it. What we need to do is see what lesson this sad and tragic incident has taught us and ensure that the lapses are not committed again. The public first expects prevention and secondly detection. Bringing the individuals involved in this dastardly act of terrorism to justice is not only a must but a duty on every police force.
Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE

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