Northern Ireland

On the Runs: Omagh relative Michael Gallagher wants sanctions

Omagh bomb scene Image copyright Other
Image caption Twenty-nine people were killed in the 1998 Omagh bombing

A man who lost his son in the 1998 Omagh bomb has called for sanctions against those who designed a government scheme for fugitive republicans.

Michael Gallagher was giving evidence to MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee investigating the issuing of letters to "on the run" paramilitaries.

His son, Aiden, was one of 29 people killed in the Real IRA Omagh bombing.

"The most basic denial of human rights that victims can get is the denial of justice," Mr Gallagher told MPs.

"The people that were responsible, the agents of the government responsible for putting this (administrative scheme) together, they should have to face some sort of sanction for doing this."

Under the On the Runs scheme, letters were sent to about 200 republicans telling them they were not wanted by the police.

The scheme became the focus of controversy after the collapse of a case against John Downey in February for the 1982 Hyde Park bombing.

On Wednesday, Mr Gallagher said: "As for the On the Runs, I am not in the least interested in their politics.

"I am concerned about truth, justice and dignity for those who have suffered. By sending letters of assurance, the possibility of justice is denied to many victims and their basic human rights have been ignored.

"We represent some very unhappy people who put their faith in Parliament, politicians, police and the legal system. There seems to be no accountability mechanism working which stops politicians from ignoring the wishes of parliament."

He added: "It appears the government were willing to do anything to placate the terrorists to the detriment of the victims.

"We are asking your help and support to hold those politicians to account for the untold damage they have done to victims and survivors by deceit and compounding their grief."

Birmingham pub bombings

Also appearing before the committee on Wednesday, were campaigners for the truth about the Birmingham pub bombings.

Twenty-one people were killed and more than 180 injured in the 1974 attacks.

Julie Hambleton, whose sister, Maxine, was killed in the blasts, said she wanted some group to admit to having carried them out.

The IRA has been widely blamed for the Birmingham attacks, but has never admitted it.

Six people were jailed in 1975 but their convictions were quashed in 1991.

Image caption The collapse of John Downey's trial earlier this year sparked the On the Runs crisis

Brian Hambleton, Maxine's brother, said there were some "very dark forces at work" in the Birmingham case.

Mr Hambleton told MPs he had often wondered why the IRA had never admitted being responsible, but now he thought he knew why.

He said that in the 1970s the British government was trying to discredit the IRA in every way they could.

Julie Hambleton pointed out that many members of the Irish community in Birmingham had been out drinking in the pubs targeted by the bombers and more Irish Catholics had been killed that night than any other nationality.

The Hambletons told MPs that they had been given names of five people believed to be responsible and although those names were associated with the IRA, one of them, "Mr X", was said to have worked undercover for the British secret services.

The campaigners were highly critical of the police and others in authority who they claimed had treated them "like lepers".

They called for an inquiry into the bombing and an investigation aimed at bringing those responsible to justice.

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