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Questions over Omagh Fire Tragedy Demands full Public Inquiry

9 December, 2009

Sinn Fein West Tyrone MP MLA Pat Doherty has called for a full Public Inquiry into the failure of statutory agencies to recognise the danger signs that should have been apparent prior to the Omagh Fire tragedy.

Pat Doherty said:

"Following the Independent Review findings into the Omagh fire tragedy which claimed the lives of Lorraine Mc Govern, Arthur Mc Elhill and their five young children I pointed out that a number of question marks hung over the handling of the case prior to the tragedy. Following the Inquest findings I am even more convinced that the case was not handled properly and that there is a clear need for a full Public Inquiry to determine how these failures ocurred and to determine measures to ensure that never again could such a sequence of events be allowed to culminate in such tragic events.

“While I have not yet had time to study the full implications of the Inquest findings I find it disturbing enough and I believe that the public are sufficiently disturbed to conclude that the only avenue that can reassure the public that this could not happen again is through a full Public Inquiry.

"The revelations at the Inquest combined with the findings of the Independent Review Panel that the authorities had to act to remove a female teenage child who was not related to the family from the home prior to the tragedy would indicate that Arthur McEhill was a known sexual predator and shouild have been more closely monitored.

“It is clear that the early warning signs were there but were not properly followed up on. There was an acknowledgement of this fact in other findings of the Independent Review Report which criticise: communication of information between all agencies in respect of the criminal offences committed by Arthur McElhill; dissemination of that information within disciplines of the trust and other agencies and assessment of potential risks posed by Arthur McElhill to teenage girls by reason of the nature of those criminal offences; and good practice and management within the disciplines of the trust and other agencies.

“While 63 recommendations aimed at all agencies involved in supporting and protecting children and their families were made in the Independent Review Report and while the Minister promised their speedy implementation, I still believe that it is essential that a Public Inquiry is required to draw up reccomendations on how all agencies should implement protocols for sharing relevant information in these type of cases. Other agencies such as the PSNI who had been involved with the Mc Elhill/Mc Govern family but who do not come under the juristiction of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety must be brought under one reporting umbrella.

"While I have many criticisms of the circumstances of this tragedy, I want to pay tribute to the staff of St Conor's Primary School and the Sacred Heart College who worked with the WELB's Critical Incident Response Team in the days and weeks following the fire to help the friends and class mates of the Mc Elhill children cope with the trauma."

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