‘Beware – Omagh bomb could happen again’ says former top detective

A former leading detective has stressed that the threat of an Omagh-style atrocity remains real.

Monday, 26th July 2021, 10:54 am
The immediate aftermath of the car bomb detonating

Alan Mains was reacting to calls for an inquiry into the policing operation surrounding the 1998 bombing, particularly around the idea that officers could have stopped the attack.

A High Court judge had ruled on Friday that new investigations should take place into whether police could have stopped the August 1998 bloodbath, which claimed 31 lives.

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Mr Mains joined others in pointing out that police at the time faced muddy and complex situations in trying to collect and digest large amounts of potential intelligence about paramilitary networks.

But he also added that, if such an inquiry does indeed get off the ground, it could well have some positive effects – particularly if it improves the flow of intelligence between the Gardai and PSNI.

At the time of the bombing, Mr Mains was a detective chief inspector working on economic crimes.

Later he became a senior investigating officer in murders and other serious violence. He retired 13 years ago.

“Anything that enhances investigations between the north and south are only to be welcomed,” he said.

“Because the reality of all this is that this type of thing could happen again.

“The security services are working night and day on these people, these Continuity IRA people, dissidents, call them what you may.

“They are active and they want to create a situation where they can get a bomb in.

“This could happen again, and we need to have a sharper focus on intelligence-sharing between the north and south.”

When it comes to handling intelligence in the field, “you get it right hopefully more than you get it wrong”, he said.

“You have to work it out, disseminate it, grade it, you have to put so many parts together to make it work, and that sometimes doesn’t happen...

“People are looking at this very clinically.

“And it’s not one of those clinical issues that you can turn round and definitively say that ‘if somebody would have known that, with the benefit of hindsight, we’d have done something differently’.”

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