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Omagh bombing inquiry: Irish Government must take part, says victim’s widower

Kevin Skelton, whose wife Philomena died in the 1998 atrocity, said a probe without the Irish Government would be a ‘waste of time’.

The widower of a woman killed in the Omagh bombing has said a UK Government inquiry into the Omagh bombing would be a “waste of time” without the involvement of the Irish Government.

In February, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris announced the Government would establish an independent statutory inquiry into the preventability of the Omagh bombing.

Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed by a bomb planted by the Real IRA – the worst loss of life in any incident in the Troubles.

It came just months after the historic Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

Omagh bombing 25th anniversary
Police officers and firefighters inspect the damage caused by a bomb in Omagh (Paul McErlane/PA)

No-one has ever been criminally convicted of the attack.

Kevin Skelton’s wife, Philomena, died in the bombing.

Speaking to reporters following a private event marking the 25th anniversary of the attack, Mr Skelton said: “The memories are there all the time. You just can’t get them out of your head, no matter how hard you try.”

Asked about the upcoming inquiry, he said: “Unless the southern government is involved, it’s a waste of time.”

He added: “If they do get involved, whether it bears fruit or not – I don’t know.”

He said the bomb was driven to Omagh from the Republic of Ireland.

“But whatever happens – one way or the other – we do not want to see it taken away from the people that actually planted the bomb.

“At the end of the day, a dissident republican terrorist group planted that bomb.”

He said the “Irish government had done very little regarding the Troubles so far”.

British Irish Intergovernmental Conference in London
Micheal Martin and Chris Heaton-Harris (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“Now is the time to step up to the plate.”

Reflecting on the course of other inquiries, Mr Skelton said: “I’ll probably not be above the ground by the time the results come out, anyway.

“But we must not let the people who done it, get away with it.”

Stanley McCombe, who lost his wife Ann, said he believed it would be difficult for “justice” to come out of the inquiry.

Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “Let’s start off with getting the truth about Omagh. Why it happened, how it happened and who else was involved in this.”

Ireland’s Tanaiste, Micheal Martin, has said his country will co-operate fully with a UK inquiry into the Omagh bombing, which he described as “one of the most brutal atrocities ever witnessed on this island”.

Draft terms of reference for the inquiry have been shared with the Irish Government but Mr Martin said it is his understanding that chairman Lord Turnbull intends to seek the views of “those most affected” by the bombing before they are published.

Mr Martin, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, added: “Officials stand ready to engage with members of the UK’s inquiry team as soon as they are appointed.

“When we have further clarity on the nature of the UK inquiry, I will then consider, along with the Minister for Justice (Helen McEntee) and my Cabinet colleagues, the next steps in this jurisdiction.

“As has been done in relation to a number of historical inquiries, this State will co-operate fully.

“Justice for the victims and the families impacted by this atrocity will be at the heart of any action that the Government takes.”

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