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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 21:57 GMT
Omagh bomb report 'grossly unfair'
Omagh bombing
The Omagh bomb left 29 people dead
Northern Ireland's chief constable is considering taking legal action to have a critical report on the police handling of the Omagh bomb inquiry quashed.

The report into the force's handling of the investigation into the 1998 Real IRA bombing was published on Wednesday by Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.

It concluded the judgement and leadership of Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan, and the assistant chief constable of the crime division, was "seriously flawed".

The families of some of the 29 people who died in the attack are calling for a public inquiry following the publication of the report.

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

However, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday evening, Sir Ronnie said he considered the report to represent neither a "fair, thorough or rigorous investigation".

He said he was considering legal action on a "personal and organisational basis".

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."

I would not only resign, I would publicly commit suicide if I felt this report to be fair

Sir Ronnie Flanagan

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".

The Omagh bombing was the worst single incident in the 30 years of the Troubles.

Mrs O'Loan presented the details of her report after she personally supplied a summary version to the families of those bereaved and injured in Omagh.

Nuala O'Loan: Spoke to the relatives of the victims
Nuala O'Loan: Spoke to the relatives of the victims
In one of its most hard-hitting sections she said: "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."

She said that as a result, the chances of detaining and convicting the Omagh bombers had been significantly reduced

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

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

Her 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 Denis Murray
    "There was scathing criticism of senior police officers"
    NI Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan
    "I would commit suicide publicly if I thought this report to be fair"
    Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O' Loan
    "I am not saying the bomb could have been prevented"
    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
    12 Dec 01 | N Ireland
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