Northern Ireland news

No announcement from secretary of state on further Omagh investigation decision, promises soon

Police officers and firefighters inspecting the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh.
John Breslin

Campaigners seeking a public inquiry into the Omagh bombing have yet to hear any word from Chris Heaton-Harris as the secretary of state's own deadline to make a decision looms.

Mr Heaton-Harris was expected to announce his decision in January after the high court in late 2021 ruled there should be further investigation, though it stopped short of making any order.

During continuing legal proceedings taken by families of some of the 29 killed in the August 1998 atrocity, including a woman pregnant with twins, counsel for the secretary of state was expected to make a decision by mid-January.

Michael Gallagher, father of victim Aiden, said he has not received any information on a decision. Mr Gallagher previously said Mr Heaton-Harris, on a recent visit to Omagh, promised to announce his decision on a return visit to the Co Tyrone town.

"We are working on a decision on the Government’s response to Mr Justice Horner’s judgment and intend to make an announcement very soon," an Northern Ireland Office spokesperson said.

The legal action centres on claims state agencies, including the police, could have done more to prevent the bombing.

Lord Justice Mark Horner ruled the bombing could arguably have been prevented if police had received all available intelligence. He called for new investigations on both sides of the border.

Michael Gallagher standing at the Memorial Garden in Omagh dedicated to the victims of the Omagh bomb. Picture date: Monday January 2, 2023..


The latest court hearing last November was a challenge by Mr Gallagher over claimed delays by the government following the 2021 ruling.

Counsel for the secretary of state, Paul McLaughlin KC told the court: “We anticipate a decision from the secretary of state some time around mid-January."

Hugh Southey KC, for Mr Gallagher, decried the delay in moving forward on what type of investigation should take place. “It's slightly strange to see why this is necessary," he told the court.

A further review will happen in early February. Lord Justice Horner told Mr McLaughlin: “I expect you to be able to inform the court what the decision is.I want to get this case resolved finally. Let's move as quickly as we can."

Northern Ireland news