Call to speed up Omagh evidence review

A British government inquiry into intelligence files linked to the Omagh bomb should be accelerated so it can be used in court, grieving relatives said tonight.

A British government inquiry into intelligence files linked to the Omagh bomb should be accelerated so it can be used in court, grieving relatives said tonight.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown today announced a review of intelligence material about the 1998 Real IRA blast after claims in a TV documentary that the bombers’ phones were being tapped.

Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, will examine all intercept material from the security and intelligence services and how it was shared.

A BBC documentary claimed Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was recording the bombers’ calls before the atrocity, which killed 29 people.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the blast, urged the authorities to act quickly.

“If enough resources were applied to this enterprise, we don’t see why this could not be done in a matter of weeks rather than months,” he said.

Yesterday, victims’ relatives warned the British government it faces legal action within a week if it does not hand over intelligence files which could have helped to catch the bombers.

They want to use any transcripts or recollections from individuals relating to mobile phone calls between the bombers on their way to Omagh in their ongoing civil legal case in Belfast against five men they blame for the tragedy.

Nobody has been convicted of murder after the North's worst atrocity in August 1998 and angry families are demanding an independent cross-border public inquiry into events before the blast and the security force investigations.

Mr Gallagher added: “We welcome the swiftness with which the Government has moved on this. However, we believe that the families should have an input and should be consulted.

“It is indicated that this will take up to three months. We feel that the civil action now taking place, which will be over by that time, is the best possible way of using any intelligence or evidence gleaned from that.

“We would urge Sir Peter to seriously consider making this material and evidence available as soon as possible.”

He said he would be writing to Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde and the Irish and Spanish governments, whose citizens also died, after the Panorama programme’s findings.

The Cabinet Office said the review should be completed within three months and the Prime Minister was expected to share the outcome with the British House of Commons.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has invited the Rt Hon Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, to review the intercepted intelligence material available to the security and intelligence agencies in relation to the Omagh bombing and how it was shared.”

Former police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan published a damning critique of the police investigation, accusing detectives of letting down victims and their families.

Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward welcomed Mr Brown’s announcement.

“Everybody feels terribly badly for the families of the victims who, after 10 years, have not seen anyone brought properly to justice. You have to be struck by the sense of injustice,” he said.

“I think, given the information that was put into the public domain by Panorama, it is absolutely right that the Prime Minister has said there should be a review of the use of the intercepted material at the time and how it was shared.”

He challenged those in the community who knew who the bombers were to finally come forward with the information to help police.

“The fact of the matter is that there are people out there who murdered 29 people and two unborn children. There are people out there who know who those people are,” he added.

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