By Cate McCurry and David Young, PA
The father of a man killed in the Omagh bombing has hailed the judicial call for fresh investigations into alleged cross-border security failings as the “beginning of the end” of his long quest for justice.
Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden died in the Real IRA attack in 1998, launched a legal challenge against the UK Government’s decision not to hold a public inquiry in 2013.
Eight year later, and after case delays he branded “scandalous”, Mr Gallagher said today’s ruling in Belfast High Court was “absolutely amazing”.
“We knew from, really, over 20 years that this was a preventable atrocity, but it’s one thing for me to say it, it’s an entirely different thing for a senior High Court judge to,” said Mr Gallagher.
“I just felt sadness on one side and relief on the other that, you know, we got it right and people have looked at this and believed us.”
Mr Gallagher, who gathered with other bereaved relatives to watch the judgment virtually from Omagh, urged the UK Government not to appeal against the findings.
He said a public inquiry was the only form of investigation that could answer the questions around the August 1998 bombing which killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins.
“We hope today is the beginning of the end, not the end,” he said.
“This is a huge step forward for justice and for the Omagh families.”
He added: “The important thing is that a senior High Court judge looked at the issues that we raised and agreed that there needs to be more done, there needs to be Article Two compliant investigation.
“So, we feel vindicated, this has been a great day for the families.
“We just hope that both the British and Irish governments, as the judge has recommended, will look at these issues and move them forward very quickly.
“We just want closure, we’re not opposed to any government, we’re not terrorists. We just want real answers.
“We want a public inquiry to determine whether that terrible event could have been prevented and, more importantly, learn the conclusions and put them into action so that other people who are faced with the same that they will have a better chance of surviving.”
Mr Gallagher also criticised the UK Government’s move to try to end future Troubles prosecutions.
“Murder is the most serious crime that can happen to anybody’s family and it’s always been the case that a murder, if it’s unsolved, it’s still on the books, should it be 100 years,” he said.
(The bomb has been described as one of the worst atrocities of the troubles)
“I think it’s wrong that you should try and wipe the slate clean.”
Stanley McCombe, whose wife, Ann, was killed, joined Mr Gallagher in Omagh on Friday.
He said the ruling gave the families “some hope”.
“It took some time for it to sink in,” Mr McCombe said.
“We are delighted that the judge has come out and said that there is a possibility of an investigation into the prevention of the bomb.
“It’s fantastic news but we have known this and survived this for the last 20 years.
“The amount of work that myself, Michael and our legal teams (did) in getting to the court, and it is only rightly so that we get an investigation in this.
“This is a step forward. But why has it taken this length of time for us to get the public inquiry?
“What are the British and Irish governments hiding? Why do they not want an inquiry when it is the worst atrocity in Ireland?
“The worst part about it was it was in peacetime, not in Troubles times.”
(29 people were killed in the Omagh bomb)