THE solicitor who represented Laurence Rush in his long quest for answers over the Omagh bombing has called on the authorities to come clean on the full facts of the atrocity.
Des Doherty was speaking after the death was announced yesterday (Sunday) of Mr Rush, 70, who lost his wife Elizabeth (also known as Libbi) in the explosion which killed another 28 men, women and children, including a mother pregnant with twins.
Mr Rush was the first of the victims to raise questions over the actions of the authorities before and after the Real IRA attack on August 15 1998 and his battle for accountability from the police was still unresolved when he died.
His death occurs in the midst of a major Government consultation about how victims of the Troubles should be treated. Victims’ Commissioner, Brendan McAllister, called for a new approach in a speech at the weekend – an edited version of his speech is reproduced today in The Detail.
Mr Doherty first represented Mr Rush, along with the leading barrister Michael Mansfield QC, in the inquest into the bombing in 2000; the legal team and Mr Rush met a hostile public reception to what was then widely seen as a distasteful line of questioning about the actions of police when bomb warnings started coming in.
However in the years which followed, investigations by the Police Ombudsman; failed criminal trials on both sides of the border; and investigative journalists’ work produced evidence of knowledge of an attack beforehand and of highly flawed investigations afterwards. No-one has been successfully convicted of any crime related to the bombing.
Mr Doherty recalled first meeting Mr Rush at an event in the University of Ulster at Magee in the months before the inquest and being struck at the alternative perspective Mr Rush brought to the Omagh narrative.
“At that stage I, not so much accepted the official view, but I had no reason to question it. It was only when Laurence spoke to me at that event that I began to think in different terms about Omagh.
“In my view, he was the first person to challenge what happened in his own way. He was a man of great integrity who asked difficult questions and followed them through.
“Every time I met him for a consultation, he always talked about his wife, Libbi. There was not an occasion when he would not have.”
Just over a year ago Mr Rush’s legal claim for against the police and government was resurrected in the High Court, having been struck out the previous May.
Mr Doherty said: “He was aware of the High Court decision so at least he got some solace from that. I am hopeful his children will continue his action.”
However Mr Doherty said it was now time for the authorities to come clean. "The British Government and police and Security Service [MI5] owe it to Laurence Rush and his memory and all the surviving relatives of those killed to tell them the truth about exactly what happened at Omagh.
“They need to come clean as to their involvement or otherwise. All the families in this horrific event simply need to be told the truth. There remains a great mystery surrounding the role of the state in Omagh bombing which must be addressed.”