An article from Black Flag #215.
The August 15 bombing of Omagh City Centre ,claimed by the “Real IRA” ,which took 28 lives,cannot be justified on any terms.The bombing has been condemned by Republicans and socialists who support the peace process and by many of the groups who oppose it.In its aftermath both the Real IRA and the INLA declared ceasefires.
Not everything about the bombing makes sense.Omagh has a predominantly nationalist population.It makes little sense for a Republican group which has yet to claim any real political ground within the nationalist community to carry out such an action.Given that,prior to the Omagh bomb,the Orange Order was fragmenting under pressure of its involvement in creating the climate of bigotry which led to Loyalists burning to death three Catholic children,the bombing gave the forces of reaction a breathing space.Further,it allowed the British and Irish governments an excuse to rush through legislation which amounts to selective internment of any organisations which oppose the Stormont agreement.
It is certainly the case that British and Irish intelligence forces have penetrated the Real IRA.It is likely therefore that they would have known in advance of the likelihood of a bomb being placed in Omagh city centre.-Previous police operations against the organisation have indicated that the British and Irish states have been able to anticipate Real IRA actions .Conveniently,on 15th August,such intelligence was not in place.
Moreover,Britain’s argument that the Real IRA failed to give accurate warnings of the Omagh bomb is not borne out by evidence actually released-particularly details of a third telephone call which stated that the bomb was located 200-300 yards from Omagh courthouse.Armed with this information,the RUC herded people into Market Street,where the bomb was located,rather than evacuate everyone down to the Dublin Road,as had been their normal practice in such situations.
It has long been the contention of Republican militants that the British deliberately ignore bomb warnings,to gain political credibility from the maximisation of civilian casualties.Such a strategy would bring real rewards in the case of Omagh-principally the alienation of the nationalist community from anti Stormont forces.
In the aftermath of the bomb,the Irish government rushed through the Offences Against the State (Amendment)Act 1998,which provides for the effective criminalisation of any opposition to the status quo :-:-
*refusal to answer police questions will be regared as corroborative evidence
*the creation of a new criminal offence of directing an unlawful organisation-with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment
*a new offence of collecting,recording or possessing information which could be useful for anti-government purposes Necessarily,this charge could apply to political activists,trade unionists and journalists.
Extension of the period of detention in custody under the Act from 48 to 72 hours.
*An accused person on a membership charge must reveal all defence witness details to the prosecution in advance of trial-giving licence to the state to harrass and intimidate witnesses
The Brits rushed through their own amendment of the PTA-the Criminal Justice (Terrorism amd Conspiracy) Act which allows
* Conviction for membership of an illegal organisation on the “opinion” evidence of a senior police officer
*A new offence of conspiracy within the United Kingdom to commit offences outside the UK.
We ahould not allow our horror at the slaughter at Omagh to blind us to the need to oppose the actions of the British and Irish states in their harrassment of Republicans oppossed to the Stormont settlement.It is not necessary to share the analysis of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee to seek to defend its right to put its arguments and organise in pursuit of its politics.It is our duty also to ensure that Republican Sinn Fein-which has demonstrable electoral support in the 26 Counties-remains able to have its voice heard without censorship and criminalisation.Omagh is being used as a justification for smashing all opposition to Stormont.Twenty nine percent of the nationalist community in the 6 counties,and 5% in the 26 Counties do not support the Agreement.Is the new era in Irish politics to be one where nationalists who hold the “right” opinions are accorded meaningful citizenship,while those who do not have no rights at all?