Dáil Éireann - Volume 555 - 17 October, 2002

Other Questions. - Omagh Bombing.

  7. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the latest position in regard to the Garda investigation into the Omagh bombing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18512/02]

  Mr. McDowell: I am advised by the Garda authorities that the investigation into the Omagh bombing remains ongoing and that contact between the Garda Síochána and the Police Service of Northern Ireland regarding their investigations is also continuing.

  One person has been convicted in connection with the Omagh bombing and two files are with the law officers in the cases of two other persons. The Garda Síochána remains determined to do what it can to bring the perpetrators of this appalling atrocity to justice. Given that the matter is now in the hands of the law officers, I hope Deputies will understand there is a limit to what I can say about it.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I understand the constraints on the Minister. Does he understand the extent of public concern that, four years later, only one person has been convicted for offences in connection with this ghastly event? Does he agree it is a matter of regret that the president of Sinn Féin, Mr. Adams, has expressed himself unable to exhort people in the local community to provide whatever information they might have in connection with this atrocity to the PSNI?

  Mr. McDowell: I agree with the sentiments expressed by the Deputy. It is incumbent upon everybody in public life, in any part of this island, to support fully the forces of law and order in both parts of the island. It is wrong for anybody in public life to hint, in any sense, to members of the public that they should not be entirely forthcoming with information which could be of use in detecting offences.

  In common with the Deputy, I share a sense of disappointment that more of those involved – there must have been a number – have not yet been brought to justice in connection with this [1112] atrocity. The Garda Síochána is co-operating fully with the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Within the confines and subject to the requirements of the rule of law, every effort is being made to bring the perpetrators of that atrocity to justice. Anybody who thinks they can advance a cause by killing anyone, be they members of the Northern Ireland security services or civilians targeted by a similar bomb outrage, is deeply mistaken. As I indicated here in an earlier debate, if some people in this country are planning on “getting lucky”, to use the phrase that terrorists have used chillingly about their operations, I am telling them that as far as I can achieve it, they will find themselves extremely unlucky if they go any further down that road.

  Mr. Durkan: Would the Minister give any advice to leading community figures and politicians throughout this island regarding the use of innocent civilians as legitimate targets in the pursuit of an alleged ideal or goal?

  Mr. McDowell: The Deputy will appreciate my position on that matter, which is very clear. There is no historical or political basis for any person on this island to inflict an injury on another person in either part of the island. Whether such injury takes the form of what is euphemistically called punishment beatings, which I prefer to call mutilation torture, or whether it is done in the guise of blackmail or beatings with baseball bats, or goes all the way by killing people, the moral position of the Irish people as expressed through the ballot box is 100% clear. Therefore, anybody in public life who has any doubts in their own heart about whether it is appropriate to condone such behaviour or to urge people not to inform the police services about it in either part of this island, is gravely mistaken and will stand condemned by history.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I welcome the Minister's remarks. Is he satisfied that there is no basis for reports that the Garda Síochána was tipped off or was otherwise aware of motor vehicles being stolen on this side of the Border, which were intended for terrorist purposes in Northern Ireland?

  Mr. McDowell: The Deputy knows that an inquiry was established comprising senior and notable persons to inquire into such suggestions. It is my understanding that their report will be to hand in the relatively near future. At this stage, I cannot comment further, save to say that I would be very surprised indeed if evidence comes to light to the effect that the use of cars in those circumstances for the Omagh bombing was known, in any respect, by the forces of law and order in this part of the country.