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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 17:24 GMT
Chief constable rejects Omagh claims
Sir Ronnie Flanagan
Sir Ronnie said no police officers were being protected
A call received by police 11 days before the Omagh bombing gave no indication of the forthcoming attack, according to Northern Ireland's Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

Sir Ronnie was speaking after leaked details of a draft report by the Police Ombudsman suggested the bombers may have been thwarted if the information had been passed on and security checkpoints set up.

He said no officer within special branch was being protected by the decision not to inform local officers in Omagh of the information.

"There is no question of any special branch interest, asset or source being protected," he said.


It was the special branch assessment that this did not merit further action

Sir Ronnie Flanagan

Sir Ronnie gave details of a telephone call taken on 4 August which named individuals who, it was claimed, would be moving weapons close to Omagh, to use in an attack on police on 15 August.

Sir Ronnie said: "The individuals were known to certainly one of the special branch officers. These were people not having any subversive trace.

"It was the special branch assessment that this did not merit further action."

Sir Ronnie said the information from an agent and from an anonymous caller on 4 August was such that he had "no doubt they did not present an opportunity to prevent the dreadful atrocity that took place in Omagh".

The Ulster Unionist Party's ruling executive has condemned the leaking of the draft report.

In a statement, it said: "The speculation had given the impression that the RUC received specific information.

"To insinuate the RUC knew about the date and location of the Omagh atrocity and didn't act is grossly unfair."

'Unfair'

The UUP said the affair posed questions about the integrity of the Ombudsman's office.

Earlier, the leaking of the details surrounding the draft report was condemned by the Northern Ireland Secretary, John Reid.

Dr Reid said the report had not yet been finalised and that media speculation was "grossly unfair" to the families of the victims.

"There are many people within the media who are suggesting that special branch or someone else in the RUC could have prevented the Omagh bomb. They are not reading the report that I have read," he said.

John Reid Described the leaked reports as
John Reid: Described the leaked reports as "grossly unfair"

On Thursday, the Ulster Unionist Party's former spokesman on security said the ombudsman had walked through "police interests and community interests like a suicide bomber".

Ken Maginnis told the BBC's Newsnight programme Nuala O'Loan's handling of the case and her conclusions demonstrated she had "absolutely no experience".

However, Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty said the findings suggested action could have been taken to try to prevent the attack, which killed 29 people. He said there had been a police "cover up".

Ms O'Loan's draft report found the RUC's special branch was warned about an attack planned for 15 August 1998 - but the information was not passed to police officers on the ground.

Second warning

Mr Doherty said he did not accept the tip-off had nothing to do with the bomb and called for all information held by the police and intelligence services to be released.

Ms O'Loan began to examine police intelligence on the Omagh attack after an informant claimed in two newspapers that he had passed on information about a bomb being made by republican dissidents.

But he did not mention Omagh.

The ombudsman's investigators discovered there had been another warning to the police.

On 4 August 1998 a detective constable in Omagh had spoken to an anonymous caller for over 10 minutes and had been told of a planned attack in the town on 15 August.

Nuala O'Loan: Police Ombudsman
Nuala O'Loan: Police Ombudsman
He passed that information to the special branch, but they did not alert officers on the ground.

The report is understood to be scathing in its criticism of how the information was handled but does not go as far as saying the bombing could have been prevented.

The RUC said the report contained "so many significant factual inaccuracies, unwarranted assumptions, misunderstandings and material omissions that a request has been made to the ombudsman's office for a reasonable period of time to respond in detail with what we see as the serious deficiencies in this report".

The ombudsman's draft report is now with the chief constable and Northern Ireland Secretary.

DUP assembly member Sammy Wilson said attention had been drawn away from the terrorists.

SDLP Assembly member for north Belfast, Alban Maginness, said while it was vital the facts be made public, the matter must be dealt with sensitively.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Denis Murray
"Everyone's thoughts are with the families"
PSNI Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan:
"There is no question of any special branch interest, asset or source being protected"

In DepthIN DEPTH
The Troubles
Understanding Northern Ireland
See also:

06 Dec 01 | N Ireland
06 Dec 01 | N Ireland
05 Dec 01 | N Ireland
15 Aug 00 | N Ireland
16 Aug 98 | Latest News
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