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Saturday, 18 August, 2001, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Tape linked to Omagh bomb claim
Omagh devastation
Twenty-nine people were killed at Omagh
It has been claimed the police ombudsman has been given evidence alleging the RUC knew about a planned attack in Northern Ireland two days before the Omagh bombing.

A former intelligence agent has told the BBC that the ombudsman Nuala O'Loan has a transcript of a tape which proves the police were given information.

The Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan described as "preposterous" allegations that the RUC had prior knowledge of the 1998 bombing which killed 29 people.

Mrs O'Loan's investigation was launched after the agent claimed in newspaper interviews that he had tipped off the RUC about plans by dissident republicans to plant a huge bomb somewhere in Northern Ireland.

The man, using the cover name Kevin Fulton, said he gave information to his police handler two days before the Omagh bomb.

'Preposterous'

Speaking on the BBC on Friday, Sir Ronnie said the security forces were aware of the threat of the Real IRA, but had no specific information about the bombing in Omagh.

"We had information and we had a belief that the Real IRA were very active," he said.

"The suggestion that we had any information, which if acted upon could have prevented Omagh, is an absolutely preposterous suggestion. There is no substance in it."

Willy Carlin, who acts as a spokesman for a group of former intelligence agents, claimed the authorities were trying to mount a cover-up.

In an interview with the BBC, he said the police ombudsman had been given a tape recording of a conversation between Kevin Fulton and his RUC handler.

Nuala O'Loan:
Nuala O'Loan: "Highly sensitive investigation"

The Secretary of State, Dr John Reid, said any such tape should be investigated by the ombudsman.

Senior police sources confirmed that Kevin Fulton had worked for the RUC as an intelligence agent, but they strenuously denied any suggestion that they had been given prior warning about the Omagh bomb.

On Friday, Mrs O'Loan said the investigation was "highly sensitive".

"The relatives of the Omagh victims, the secretary of state, the chief constable and the police authority have all stated their support for my decision, and my focus now is on carrying out the investigation as quickly and as rigorously as possible," she said.

The investigation comes two days after the third anniversary of the atrocity in County Tyrone on 15 August 1998.

Civil action

Imran Khan, the lawyer representing the man at the centre of the allegations, said it was important the ombudsman examined the claims.

"Clearly the allegation is very serious and there is a real responsibility on the ombudsman, particularly to the families who have suffered as a result of Omagh, that this allegation is checked and double checked and investigated thoroughly and quickly."

Victims' relatives formally launched a civil action against five men with alleged links to the paramilitary group, claiming it was "their last hope for justice".

Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aidan in the bombing, also welcomed the move and said he hoped the inquiry would move swiftly.

Click here for the full special report

Ombudsman report

Bomb trial verdict

Archive - the blast:

PANORAMA
See also:

23 Jan 01 | N Ireland
31 Jul 01 | N Ireland
18 Aug 00 | N Ireland
25 Oct 00 | UK Politics
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