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Government want Omagh bomb hearing in secret

Michael Gallagher whose son Aiden was killed in the Omagh bomb
Staff Reporter

A LANDMARK bid for a partially secret court hearing over intelligence gathered on the Omagh bombing is set to get underway next month.

Lawyers for the British government are expected to argue that national security-sensitive material is suitable for an application to hold a closed material procedure (CMP).

The move forms part of a legal challenge to Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers' refusal to hold a public inquiry into the atrocity.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was among 29 people killed by the Real IRA the August 1998, is seeking to have her decision judicially reviewed.

The case centres on claims that a range of intelligence from British security agents, MI5 and RUC officers could have been drawn together to prevent the attack.

An alleged gap in the information relates to any monitoring of the bomb and scout cars as they crossed the Irish border into Omagh on the day of the outrage.

But counsel for the Secretary of State are to seek a CMP in advance of the legal challenge being heard in full.

That process, under powers contained in the Justice and Security Act 2013, would examine whether public disclosure of some information would be damaging to national security.

It would involve intelligence documents being assessed by a judge and a special advocate barrister appointed to protect the rights of Mr Gallagher while he is shut out of the hearing.

At the High Court on Friday it was confirmed that the first stage, to decide if the case is suitable for a CMP application, is listed for a two-day hearing next month.

It will be the first such legal bid in judicial review proceedings in Northern Ireland.

The judge was told David Scoffield QC has been appointed as the special advocate to represent Mr Gallagher's interests.

The bereaved father launched his legal action after Ms Villiers rejected calls for a public investigation in September 2013.

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