Omagh bomb could have been prevented - Judge rules

A JUDGE has ruled that there was a "real prospect" that the Omagh bombing could have been prevented.

Delivering his judgment at Belfast High Court this morning (Friday) Mr Justice Horner also urged both the British and Irish governments to investigate the August 15, 1998, atrocity.

It was the worst event during Northern Ireland's Troubles, killing 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins.

The judge was responding to a judicial review brought eight years ago by Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed in the blast.

Mr Gallagher took action in response to the UK government's refusal to order a public inquiry into security failings prior to the bombing.

"I am satisfied that certain grounds when considered separately or together give rise to plausible allegations that there was a real prospect of preventing the Omagh bombing," the judge said.

"These grounds involve, inter alia, the consideration of terrorist activity on both sides of the border by prominent dissident terrorist republicans leading up to the Omagh bomb.

"I am therefore satisfied that the threshold under Article 2 ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) to require the investigation of those allegations has been reached."

“Any investigation will necessarily involve the scrutiny of both open and closed material obtained on both sides of the border.

“It is not within my power to order any type of investigation to take place in the Republic of Ireland, but there is a real advantage in an Article 2 compliant investigation proceeding in the Republic of Ireland, simultaneously with one in Northern Ireland.

“Any investigation will have to look specifically at the issue of whether a more proactive campaign of disruption, especially if co-ordinated North and South of the border, had a real prospect of preventing the Omagh bombing, and whether, without the benefit of hindsight, the potential advantages of taking a much more aggressive approach towards the suspected terrorists outweighed the potential disadvantages inherent in such an approach.”

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