In response to comments made by former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan today PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said, “Today is about remembering the 20th anniversary of the Omagh bombing, one of Northern Ireland’s most horrific atrocities which claimed the lives of 29 innocent people and unborn baby twins at the hands of a Real IRA car bomb.
This is a day for remembrance and reflection and out of the deep respect I have for the grieving families I do not intend saying anything additional to my comments regarding the Omagh bomb this morning and to which I am addressing in this statement.
My heartfelt thoughts are with the families of the victims, those who were injured on that tragic day as well as those who still suffer the after-effects of helping the dying and injured at the scene.
The former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan has today alleged it is her firm view that the bombing could have been prevented. I consider this comment to be inaccurate, unfair and unreasonable.
It adds to the pain of those who continue to suffer following this atrocity and whilst I have no wish to add to their suffering, today of all days, these assertions cannot go unchallenged.
Police were not in a position to prevent the Omagh bombing.”
Mr Hamilton continued, “In 2001 the Ombudsman carried out an investigation into matters relating to the Omagh bombing.
Today Baroness O’Loan has commented that the police did not act on an anonymous piece of information received on 4th August which she asserts could have prevented the bombing.
In her statement of 12th December 2001 the Ombudsman considered this and noted that the call related to weapons being brought in to carry out an attack on police in Omagh on 15th August 1998.
In her own report of 2001, Baroness O’Loan comments, ‘it is not possible to say what impact other action between 4th August & 15th August would’ve had or whether action other than that taken by Special Branch, could’ve prevented the Omagh bomb.
Subsequent to the Ombudsman report in 2009 a report was published by Sir Peter Gibson, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, following a review directed by former PM Gordon Brown into interception intelligence.
In his report Sir Peter concluded, ‘Any intelligence derived from interception as might’ve existed could not have prevented the bombing.’
Considering these reports, I do not know what has led Baroness O’Loan to a conclusion that differs so much from her remarks of 2001.
Considerations around a public inquiry into the Omagh bombing are a matter for Government”.