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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 20:55 GMT
'Flawed judgement' over Omagh
Omagh bombing
The Omagh bomb left 29 people dead
The judgement and leadership of the head of the police in Northern Ireland during the Omagh bomb investigation has been described as "seriously flawed".

The comments came in a damning report by the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland published on Wednesday.

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.

Nuala O'Loan: Spoke to the relatives of the victims
Nuala O'Loan: Spoke to the relatives of the victims

The Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, said she concluded "with great sadness" that the judgement and leadership of the Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, and the assistant chief constable of the crime division, was "seriously flawed".

Mrs O'Loan presented the details of her report at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon after she personally supplied copies to the families of those bereaved and injured in Omagh.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan replied at a news conference several hours later where he said both he and the force were considering legal action to quash the report.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan
Sir Ronnie Flanagan: "Report grossly unfair"

The chief constable said he considered the report to represent neither a "fair, thorough or rigorous investigation".

He added: "I consider it to be a report of an erroneous conclusion reached in advance and then a desperate attempt to find anything that might happen to fit in with that, and a determination to exclude anything which does not fit that erroneous conclusion."

And, in an emotional statement Sir Ronnie said that if he believed the allegations in the report had been true "I would not only resign, I would publicly commit suicide".

Before outlining her report, Mrs O'Loan said she wanted to stress that "the people responsible for Omagh bomb are those who planned and executed it".

In her report, she says that as a result of that, the chances of detaining and convicting the Omagh bombers have been significantly reduced.

The devastation in Omagh town centre
"The victims, their families, the people of Omagh and officers of the RUC were let down by defective leadership, poor judgement and a lack of urgency," the report added.

Mrs O'Loan has recommended a senior officer from an outside police force be asked to conduct an investigation into the bombing.

The report also recommends a review into the role and function of Special Branch which is heavily criticised for not passing on intelligence information about an attack.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid welcomed Mrs O'Loan's conclusion that "nothing should detract from the guilt of the evil people who planted the bomb in Omagh".

He added: " I note that nowhere does she conclude that the bomb could have been prevented - this was a point I wanted to emphasise last week because it is so crucial to the families."

Key recommendations of the police ombudsman:

  • That an investigation team led by a senior investigating officer, independent of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), should be asked to conduct the Omagh bomb inquiry.

  • That an officer in overall command from an outside police force be appointed to carry out the investigation of the potentially linked terrorist incidents identified in the Omagh bomb review report.

  • That senior investigating officers in the Omagh bomb investigation and all other investigations must be given appropriate access to all relevant intelligence.

  • That HM's Inspector of Constabulary be invited to carry out a review of terrorist linked murder inquiries, including sharing of intelligence between special branch and CID.

  • That a review takes place into the role and function of Special Branch to ensure there are clear structures and procedures for the management of intelligence between special branch and other parts of the force.

  • That the PSNI adopt the policy of the association of Chief Police Officers with regard to murder review.

    Lawrence Rush, whose wife Libby died in the bombing, said that having spoken to the ombudsman, it appeared the bombing could have been prevented.

    He called on Sir Ronnie Flanagan to resign.

    "There is absolutely no reason why Omagh should have happened. The police have been in dereliction of their duty to protect my wife and the citizens of Omagh and Northern Ireland," he added.

    Kevin Skelton, who also lost his wife in the bombing, said he felt the police in Omagh had done their best, but those above them in the force had not.

    Calling for a public inquiry, he said: "I am very shocked. I feel absolutely betrayed."

  •  WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Adam Parsons
    "The Police Ombudsman's report pulled no punches"
    The BBC's Kevin Connolly
    "It will never be known if the attack could have been prevented if information had been acted upon"
    The BBC's Annita McVeigh
    speaks to the father of one of the victims, Michael Gallagher
    Click here for the full special report

    Ombudsman report

    Bomb trial verdict

    Archive - the blast:

    PANORAMA

    Talking PointTALKING POINT
    Omagh report
    What do you think of the findings?
    See also:

    12 Dec 01 | N Ireland
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