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Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
No public inquiry into Omagh
Omagh bombing
The aftermath of the Omagh bombing
Calls in the House of Lords for a public inquiry into the circumstances of the Omagh bombing have been rejected by the government.

Peers requested that an inquiry, chaired by a senior judge, be set up especially in light of the fact that there have been no prosecutions relating to the atrocity.

The best means of securing that justice is to allow the police investigations and any court proceedings to run their full course

Lord Falconer
The bombing, which claimed 29 lives and injured scores more, is believed to have been carried out by members of the dissident republican group the Real IRA.

Cabinet Office Minister Lord Falconer told the Lords that while he understood the motivation behind calls for a public inquiry it might interfere with continuing investigations into the attack.

Justice for victims

He said: "The best means of securing that justice is to allow the police investigations and any court proceedings to run their full course."

But former Tory chancellor Lord Lamont drew parallels between the government's decision to allow an inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday and the fact there would be no inquiry into Omagh.

He said that if the government wished to be taken seriously, they would "allow an inquiry into these much more recent events".

But Lord Falconer insisted that the criminal process had to "take its course".

Risk of prejudice

He said a public inquiry could prejudice the existing criminal investigation.

Conceding that there had been no prosecutions in Northern Ireland to date he insisted that it could not be inferred that none would follow.

Lord Falconer said a public inquiry would call on witnesses who might subsequently be required to give evidence at criminal proceedings, so raising "difficult issues of disclosure, admissibility and conflicting evidence".

Dignity of families

The minister was supported by Lord Eames, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, who paid tribute in the debate to the dignity of victims' families who had taken part in the recent inquest.

He said: "Surely that dignity deserves that this nightmare comes to a close as soon as possible."

The inquest concluded with the coroner pinning the blame for the bombing squarely on the Real IRA, whom he said were fully responsible for all the consequences of the bombing of the town in August 1998.

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See also:

06 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Omagh inquest hears first evidence
09 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Omagh programme is broadcast
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