Harkin: "slurs have backfired"
The Sunday People has said the report from the police ombudsman for Northern Ireland into the Omagh bombing confirms its exclusive that the RUC received information from a "reliable informant" three days before the attack.
The People also concluded that a letter, sent to it on behalf of RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan, disputing this information was "factually wrong".
The paper reported on 29 July that police were tipped off by informant Kevin Fulton three days before the Omagh bomb, which killed 29 people. It claims it was this report which led to the inquiry, the findings of which were published just before Christmas.
The People said representatives of those who died had specifically thanked the paper for shedding light on what happened before and after the atrocity of 15 August, 1998.
The report from the ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, said: "A letter sent on behalf of the Chief Constable to the Sunday People was factually wrong. It concluded that Fulton’s information was ‘retrospective’ and ‘found to be without any foundation whatsoever’. It was not retrospective and has been found to have substance."
Editor Neil Wallis said: "Nothing should ever take away from the fact that those responsible for the outrage perpetrated on Omagh are the evil cowards in the Real IRA who made and planted the bomb.
"But the victims’ families deserved to know the full truth about what happened to their loved ones.
"After we presented the allegations in July, we were vilified by the establishment for daring even to probe into what went wrong in Omagh that day. Clearly the ombudsman’s report justifies our investigations."
Sunday People Ireland editor Greg Harkin, who conducted the investigation, said: "Attempts to slur both me and the Sunday People as a result of our inquiries have backfired.
"Most importantly for me – as a journalist who lives and works in Northern Ireland – has been the response of the families of those who died. They have been contacting me to thank me and the Sunday People for launching an investigation in the first place."
By Jean Morgan