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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 16:53 GMT
Omagh legal bid withdrawn
Sir Ronnie and Mrs O'Loan engaged in a public row
Sir Ronnie and Mrs O'Loan engaged in a public row
The Police Association has withdrawn an application to have Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's critical report into the Omagh bomb investigation quashed.

Both sides reached an agreement at the High Court in Belfast on Thursday.

The Police Association wanted a judicial review of Nuala O'Loan's devastating criticism of the then RUC's handling of the probe into the Real IRA attack in August 1998.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan
Sir Ronnie Flanagan felt the report was unfair

Mrs O'Loan published a scathing report on the investigation of the 1998 Omagh bombing, in which a Real IRA car bomb killed 29 people.

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

'Report remains'

Mrs O'Loan conceded she should have given Sir Ronnie more time before she published the paper in December 2001.

A statement read out in court said: "The parties consider that this resolution of their differences is in the public interest."

Speaking outside the court, she said: "I'm very pleased, because my report still stands.

We are not here to renegotiate or re-debate a closed matter which allows us to move forward with mutual respect so we can all do our jobs more effectively for the people of Northern Ireland

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen White

"The challenge has been withdrawn and I have been very concerned about the Omagh families over the past year, but they can now rest content that the report remains."

The judge, Mr Justice Kerr, praised both sides for being able to settle a complex dispute.

"I was happy to give to the parties the time necessary to reach what I consider to be a commendable disposal of this very difficult litigation," he said.

Speaking outside the court, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen White said it was time to put an end to the dispute.

"As a senior member of the PSNI leadership I look forward to a healthy and improved working relationship with the Ombudsman and all those in her office and I believe that's what everyone seeks," he said.

"We are not here to renegotiate or re-debate a closed matter which allows us to move forward with mutual respect so we can all do our jobs more effectively for the people of Northern Ireland."

Policing Board Deputy Chairman Denis Bradley said it had been unwise to take the matter to court in the first place.

"I congratulate all those involved for having the wisdom to put it out of court and put it behind us," he said.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the Omagh bomb, said he was glad the issue had been resolved.

"The problem with Omagh is we have heard so much about the periphery, but the actual investigation itself hasn't moved forward," he said.

"The focus should be on what everyone wants and that is the people responsible put behind bars."

The PSNI had criticised the report as containing "factual errors".

The papers lodged by the Police Association's solicitors included affidavits sworn by Sir Ronnie and association chairman Jimmy Spratt.

Statutory powers

The association contended the ombudsman's report and associated decisions were unlawful because the chief constable and other senior officers were denied a fair and reasonable opportunity to make a considered and informed response.

The papers stated the ombudsman "subjected the chief constable to a withering condemnation of his professional skills, abilities and judgement" without giving him a chance to respond.

Nuala O'Loan's report was critical of police handling of Omagh warnings
Nuala O'Loan's report was critical of police handling of Omagh warnings

Accusing the ombudsman of being "unreasonable and disproportionate", the papers concluded: "The ombudsman's report and associated decisions constitute a misuse of her statutory powers, responsibilities and functions."

Two days had been set aside for the hearing before Mr Justice Kerr.

The Police Association represents all ranks in the PSNI.

Sir Ronnie's affidavit supporting the case for quashing the report was accompanied by one from Ray White, a former assistant chief constable.

The ombudsman's office will have affidavits from acting deputy chief constable of the PSNI Alan McQuillan and Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid.

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  Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan:
"The challenge has been withdrawn and I have been very concerned about the Omagh families"
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Ombudsman report

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 Omagh report
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See also:

22 May 02 | N Ireland
12 Dec 01 | N Ireland
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