The Government has pledged to support the inquiry announced yesterday by the British Government into the 1998 Omagh bombing including, sources say, potentially conducting an exercise to gather all available information to the Republic’s authorities to assist the inquiry.
It is anticipated that access to information from confidential Garda sources could become an issue in the future, but senior Government sources pledged full co-operation with the inquiry, including the provision of such information.
The Garda referred queries to the Department of Justice.
Officials will now wait to see the terms of reference before formulating a response and an approach, it is understood.
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The 1998 atrocity saw 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, killed by the Real IRA bomb. Some victims’ relatives have long believed that the security services in Northern Ireland could have prevented the attack.
The Real IRA was a dissident splinter group that split from the provisional IRA and refused to abide by the 1997 ceasefire.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the Government would “not be found wanting” in co-operating with the inquiry, but senior Government sources said that they would await its terms of reference before deciding how best to respond.
It is understood that some form of information-gathering exercise with a view to supplying assistance to the inquiry could be among the options considered by Dublin, but officials stressed that no decisions would be made pending further discussions with the British Government and the publication of the terms of reference.
[ Omagh bombing: key events before and after the attack ]
Minister for Justice Simon Harris noted that a number of reviews and investigations have already been conducted into the bombing.
“I will be discussing today’s announcement with my Government colleagues and we will, of course, consider what further action is required on our part in response to the UK Government’s decision to establish an Inquiry,” he said.
“I look forward to receiving further detail on the proposed UK Inquiry as it becomes available.”
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, who spoke to Northern Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris on Wednesday night about the British Government’s decision, said: “While welcoming today’s announcement, it also serves as a reminder of the need to deal effectively with the legacy of the past, in a manner which advances the fundamental goal of reconciliation.”
The decision to establish the inquiry comes after many years of campaigning by relatives of the bomb victims. In 2021, a British High Court judge recommended that the British government should carry out a human rights-compliant investigation into alleged security failings in the lead-up to the attack, noting that it was potentially plausible the attack could have been prevented.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Heaton-Harris said: “I have weighed these up against the clear findings set out by the court, which we must meet for any investigation to be effective and compliant with our international obligations, and which are at the core of my decision.”