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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 23:20 GMT
Politicians react to Omagh 'riposte'
The scene of the Omagh bomb
The Omagh bomb left 29 people dead
The Democratic Unionist Party has said the Northern Ireland chief constable's response to the Omagh report is a "devastating riposte" to the ombudsman.

Ian Paisley junior of the DUP said Sir Ronnie Flanagan's reply to criticisms by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan showed that her report on the Omagh bomb inquiry contained "pages upon pages of factual errors".

Mr Paisley and other members of the Northern Ireland Police Board were given Sir Ronnie's response to Nuala O'Loan's report on Wednesday.

Ian Paisley junior:
DUP's Ian Paisley junior: "Errors exposed in ombudsman's report"

The Omagh bombing - admitted by the dissident republican Real IRA - killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, and injured hundreds more.

In her report, published in December, Mrs O'Loan said the judgement and leadership of Sir Ronnie during the bomb investigation was "seriously flawed".

Her report also said that the RUC had information about a planned attack in Omagh 11 days before the bombing, which had it been passed on and security checkpoints put in place, may have deterred the bombers.

Commenting on the two documents he has prepared - one addressing the ombudsman's accusations and the other addressing her recommendations - Sir Ronnie said the police service had "nothing to hide about its conduct of the Omagh investigation and is more than ready to take any steps to reassure the public".

Sir Ronnie: Due in Omagh on Thursday
Sir Ronnie Flanagan replied to ombudsman's criticisms

In his first document Sir Ronnie says Mrs O'Loan's report contains "significant factual inaccuracies, misunderstandings, material omissions and unwarranted assumptions".

Sammy Wilson, also a Police Board member for the DUP, said the chief constable had delivered a "damning indictment" of Mrs O'Loan's report.

"The Ombudsman's report clearly caused massive anxiety to the relatives of those killed in the Omagh bomb and embarrassment to the police who were pilloried as incompetent or worse across the world," the east Belfast assembly member said.

"Mrs O'Loan must explain publicly how her investigators, whoever they were, got it so wrong and why, when the accuracies were pointed out, she has not publicly acknowledged them."

SDLP's Joe Byrne:
SDLP's Joe Byrne: "Energies must be channeled into investigation"
Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey, whose party has boycotted the Police Board because it says the board does not have sufficient powers to hold the chief constable truly accountable, warned nationalists would allow any attempt to suppress revellations about the Omagh investigation.

"The relatives have the right to know the truth about what happened that day," he said.

"So far they have been denied this. I agree with many of the families that in the light of the Ombudsman's Report and the McVicker Report and the media exposure of the RUC incompetence and Special Branch cover-ups that the only way the truth can be established is through a public inquiry."

UUPs Fred Cobain:
UUPs Fred Cobain: "We must not let this become a political row"
Joe Byrne, a nationalist SDLP Police Board member said the reports must be used as a trigger for new efforts to be put into the Omagh investigation, rather than the basis of a political row.

"I think it is very important that we don't have a personality clash between the ombudsman Nuala O'Loan and Sir Ronnie Flanagan," he said.

"We as members of the Police Board have to respect the integrity of both officers and we have to make sure that all three institutions of policing - the police ombudsman's office, the chief constable's office and the police board itself - are allowed to work in a mature and balanced and productive way."

Ulster Unionist Police Board member Fred Cobain, also warned against turning the issue into a political argument.

He said: "I think it would be a shame if we were to use any of our resources or energies in fighting among ourselves when the prime object of this is to bring these people to justice."

Click here for the full special report

Ombudsman report

Bomb trial verdict

Archive - the blast:

PANORAMA
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09 Jan 02 | N Ireland
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