NORTHERN Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has appointed Lord Turnbull as chair of the Omagh Bombing Inquiry.
The inquiry, which was announced in February, is intended to establish the preventability of the Real IRA bombing in August 1998, which killed 29 people and two unborn children, and injured 220 others.
It has been established under the Inquiries Act 2005, and has the power to compel the production of documents and to summon witnesses to give evidence on oath.
Lord Turnbull has had a lengthy judicial career in Scotland, serving most recently in Scotland’s Supreme Courts.
His appointment to the role of chair of the Omagh Inquiry, which was confirmed on June 12, follows a recommendation made by the Lord Chief Justice for England and Wales, in conjunction with his counterparts across the rest of the UK, Mr Heaton-Harris confirmed.
Confirming the announcement via a written ministerial statement to Parliament, Mr Heaton-Harris said: “Lord Turnbull’s long-standing judicial career and his previous experience of working on terrorism cases will provide the highest levels of knowledge and professionalism. “I have no doubt that Lord Turnbull will bring to the Inquiry the required rigour, independence, and impartiality, and I am grateful to him for accepting this important job.”
Regarding his appointment, Lord Turnbull said: “I am honoured to be appointed to chair this important Inquiry.
“I am very conscious of the devastation brought to the lives of so many by the atrocity which took place in Omagh in August 1998.
“I understand the determination of those who lost family and loved ones, and of those who were themselves injured, or whose family members were injured, to learn whether the attack could have been prevented.”
He added: “As soon as is practicable I shall be seeking views from those affected about the Inquiry.
“Once the Inquiry’s terms of reference are finalised I shall conduct an independent and robust Inquiry in order to establish the truth.”
As required by the Inquiries Act 2005, the Secretary of State will now undertake a consultation exercise with the chair on the proposed Terms of Reference for the Inquiry. These will be agreed and published in due course.
Welcoming Lord Turnbull’s appointment, the SDLP’s West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan said it marked an important moment for “victims, survivors and their families”.
“The appointment of Lord Turnbull as the chair of the Omagh Bombing Inquiry is an important moment for victims, survivors and their families who fought so hard for so long to have this inquiry take place,” he said.
“I have stood alongside them for many years and have been stunned by their quiet determination to gain truth and justice for their loved ones.
He added: “. It is important that this inquiry is victim-focused given all that those impacted by Omagh have been through over the past few decades.
“The events of that day in Omagh have long cast a shadow over the town. I hope that this announcement will bring comfort to victims, survivors and their families and that this inquiry will deliver the answers they seek.
“It’s a testament to their courage and refusal to give up that this inquiry has been secured and I hope to see further progress in the near future.”