Independent TD Mattie McGrath has expressed his deep sense of satisfaction that the families of the Omagh bomb tragedy have received renewed impetus to their campaign for a full cross-border public inquiry following his intervention at Leaders Questions in the Dail.
Deputy McGrath challenged the Taoiseach to belatedly follow up on his 2004 Fine Gael Ard-Fheis promises that any Government led by him would never lie about secret contacts with the Real IRA. More important, at that Ard Fheis the Taoiseach also saluted the families and the survivors of the Omagh bombing and spoke directly to those families who were present saying: â€œYou will get the truth and so will Ireland because Fine Gael is not alone in its commitment to honesty, honest politics and honest government.â€
â€œI felt that the Taoiseach responded to my questions and the challenges I posed to him in a most respectful and courteous manner. I have now asked him to follow this goodwill up and put in place an effective process in which the families can be actively engaged with rather than just politely listened to and then ignored as has been the case to date. It is time we paid a little bit more than the usual political lip-service to the cause of these families and actually do something that will help them. It is action they need, not heartfelt sentiments that are soon forgotten while the families and victims linger for another 15 years without the full facts of what happened on that awful day being brought to light and to public scrutiny,â€ Deputy McGrath said.
Deputy McGrath also highlighted the presence of Michael Gallagher of the Omagh Victims Support Group who lost his 21 year old son Aidan in the bomb blast and his daughter Cat Wilkinson who were both present in the Public Gallery to hear the Taoiseachâ€™s reply. In what was a very emotional and subdued exchange, the Taoiseach made a commitment to Deputy McGrath that the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter would contact him directly to discuss the issues raised by the comprehensive Report that the families submitted last year. He also pledged that he would in due course be happy to meet with the families and their representatives directly:
â€œThe families are very keen to have it known that the last thing they want is to engage in an adversarial process with the Government. Their only concern is to work in partnership with both the British and Irish Governments. They are not on a political crusade to damage anyone but simply to bring the full disclosure of what happened on that awful day in 1998 to the light of day,â€ concluded Deputy McGrath.
Mr Gallagher and Mrs Wilkinson both left deeply encouraged at the opportunity to present their case to the Taoiseach directly. They now await a timely and appropriate opportunity to continue their work in partnership with Deputy McGrath and other members of the Oireachtas who yesterday expressed a willingness to move the process forward to a successful conclusion for the families and victims involved.