Bombers were wholly to blame, whatever the RUC failings

Morning View
Morning View

When the former Police Ombudsman said yesterday that the Omagh bomb could have been prevented, there was uproar that such a thing could be said on the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

The criticism was of course valid: it was a grossly insensitive thing for Nuala O’Loan to say on such an occasion, when the relatives of the 29 dead (which included a woman pregnant with twins) were remembering their loved ones.

But it is important not to lose sight of the fact that it was a shameful thing to say in its own right, at any time.

It is good that the PSNI chief constable George Hamilton, who has on so many occasions recently seemed determined to comfort the feelings of nationalists and republicans, is this time defending the record of his old police force, the RUC.

Mr Hamilton listed the previous occasions in which this theory that the RUC could have stopped it had been rejected: “We have had this examined infinitum by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies, by Sir Peter Gibson, by Nuala O’Loan herself when she held office of ombudsman ...”

However, even if the RUC had been incompetent, the blame for Omagh would still squarely with the mass murdering Irish republican terrorists who planted the bomb.

This is the case at Omagh, it is the case at Enniskillen, at Harrods, La Mon, on Bloody Friday — indeed, in all the atrocities the News Letter listed in this very editorial space yesterday, when we mentioned the tendency to blame the security services for the massacres that were the work of the IRA. It is happening over the Shankill bomb, it is happening over Teebane.

This tendency to blame the security forces is often accompanied by the comment from the accuser that of course the terrorists are most to blame, but even so it has the clear effect of spreading the culpability.

As the deadline for the consultation on legacy bodies approaches, it is now urgent that we establish that they will not become a forum for such rewriting of the past.