The UK Government will take time to consider a High Court judge’s ruling that there should be a new investigation into the Omagh bombing, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said.

Brandon Lewis said that the Omagh families “deserve answers” but did not immediately commit to any new probe.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the Irish Government would do what is “necessary” following the long-awaited ruling.

Mr Justice Horner called for fresh investigations on both sides of the Irish border into the 1998 Real IRA atrocity which killed 29 people, including a mother pregnant with twins.

Ruling in a judicial review brought over the UK Government’s refusal to establish a public inquiry, the judge also said it was plausible that there was a real prospect the bombing could have been prevented by the security services

Mr Lewis said: “The Omagh bombing was a terrible atrocity that caused untold damage to the families of the 29 people who were tragically killed and the 220 who were injured. The reverberations of that awful event were felt not just in Northern Ireland, but across the world.

“I want to put on record my deep regret that the families of those killed and wounded have had to wait so long to find out what happened on that terrible day in 1998.

Omagh bombing inquiry
Royal Ulster Constabulary police officers and firefighters inspecting the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, Co Tyrone (PA)

“They deserve answers and I have great respect for their patience, grace and determination.”

He added: “We recognise that today the court has set out that there are ‘plausible allegations that there was a real prospect of preventing the Omagh bombing’ and that more should be done to investigate this.

“The UK Government will take time to consider the judge’s statement and all its recommendations carefully as we wait for the full judgment to be published.”

Mr Martin said the Irish Government had an “open book” policy in terms of providing information.

British Irish Council summit
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the Irish Government had an ‘open book’ policy in providing information over atrocities with a cross-border element (Liam McBurney/PA)

He added: “We will analyse that judgment and we will do what is necessary in terms of the citizens on the island of Ireland.

“I always stand ready to have an open book in terms of any atrocity that was committed which had a cross-border dimension to it in terms of following through in any way we can through the provision of information or indeed to vindicating the rights of people and citizens.

“So, a very open book in terms of how we proceed with this now but we’ve got to examine the options that are available to us in respect of the conclusions of the judge.”

Mr Martin continued: “That was the single worst atrocity that occurred – it was appalling and the responsibility is on those who committed that foul act.

“So many, many people lost their lives. That said, there’s an obligation on governments to examine what could have been done, if anything could have been done to prevent the atrocity with a view to informing future practice.

“But I’m in no doubt that evil people did that, it was just absolutely reckless and appalling and gave such heartache and broke so many families – a needless loss of life when we were on well on our way to a peace process and we should never lose sight of those who are ultimately responsible in the first instance.

“It’s those who perpetrated the crime itself, who thought up the idea, who planted the bomb and left such devastation behind them, we can never lose sight of that, they’re fundamentally guilty in terms of murdering so many people.

“But the state must always self-reflect in terms of how it acts to protect its citizens.”

Mr Martin highlighted that the Irish Government had previously fulfilled its obligations in respect of investigating crimes with a cross-border dimension when it set up the Smithwick Tribunal to probe allegations of Garda collusion in the IRA killings of two senior RUC officers during the Troubles.

“We will do so again in respect of any further investigations that we support and cooperate with,” he said.

“But I think we have to take one step at a time, we have to analyse what the implications of this are, reflect on the judge’s conclusions and how we can take it forward from here.”