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The Prime Minister: On the right hon. Gentleman's points about the legislation, it was always our intention that the statement of a police officer could not of itself alone secure a conviction. I think that an annual review is simply sensible in legislation of this sort.

There are two reasons for the international measures. First, they have long been on the stocks, as it were. Under the last Government and under this Government, we have been waiting for the right opportunity. People expect us to be taking action not merely in respect of acts of terrorism within the United Kingdom but in respect of people here conspiring to commit such acts abroad. I think that, after the events of the past few weeks, that feeling is stronger rather than weaker.

In respect of the legislation in the Irish Republic, of the many differences between the situation now and that which has existed over a considerable period in Northern Ireland, one stands out above all others--the co-operation between ourselves and the Government in the Republic. We are working together. One of the reasons that we thought it right to seek the recall of Parliament is not just that it would, I think, be unwise for us to proceed without legislation, but that it is right to proceed step by step with the Irish Government, showing that there is a determination, in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, to hunt down those responsible and to bring them to justice, recognising that this is a different situation and that those people have no support and no votes anywhere.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South): Does the Prime Minister recognise that every sensible person will share his desire to see the perpetrators of the terrible atrocity at Omagh and their supporters behind bars, but that there is no substitute for patient detective work, resulting in credible evidence and the conviction of the right people? If we get this wrong, we shall end up creating a political base for a tiny, isolated sect, which has no political base at the moment. That is what has happened in the past, and we must avoid it in the future.

If we are to avoid that happening again, we must have credible evidence, capable of belief in court. Therefore, will the Prime Minister consider accepting two of the amendments that I have tabled, one of which would require the RUC to take audio recordings of interviews with suspects--which, incredibly, it has resisted for

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years? The second would require the presence of a solicitor, as is required in most of the rest of the United Kingdom. Will my right hon. Friend make the Bill conditional on that happening? He will find that all the mainly bogus objections raised to such matters will melt away like snow on a volcano if those provisions are a condition of being allowed to arrest people in the way that the Bill proposes.

The Prime Minister: First of all, my hon. Friend's concerns are perfectly reasonable--I accept that. I accept, too, that we have to beware of repeating any mistakes made in the past. As I said, we do not want to provoke a backlash which will give those people a political base. However, we must also recognise that we are dealing with a different situation--with a very small group of people who have no base and no support, but who have the capacity to engage in the most appalling acts of terror, as we have seen. Measures have to be focused, targeted and responsibly done.

I take it that my hon. Friend accepts the need for some form of legislation. On his first point, on audio recording, that is now the law, and it is being introduced as quickly as possible. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will say some more about that.

On the presence of a solicitor, it is precisely to deal with the European convention on human rights that we made it a condition that people have to see a solicitor. My right hon. Friend will also draw attention to the other safeguards that exist in respect of the presence of a solicitor. We do not believe that it is right to amend the legislation in that way for reasons that my right hon. Friend will give, but we are acutely conscious of the need to steer a path between carefully targeted action and action that could result in the miscarriage of justice. Obviously, we do not want the latter, and that is why we have been so careful to frame the legislation in that way.

Mr. William Thompson (West Tyrone): First, I welcome the Prime Minister's statement. All hon. Members who have spoken reflected the view of the whole House this afternoon when they offered their sympathy and condolence to the people of Omagh, especially all those who have lost loved ones and those who are still recovering from serious injuries--many are still in a serious condition.

Omagh is in my constituency--indeed, it is my home town. I was born close by, and have spent all my life there. I went to school in Omagh and was employed by the local council for nine years, after which I had a business which has served the people of Omagh for the past 30 years. It is a town where people have always got on well together, and, despite several bomb attacks and a number of murders of security personnel and others during the years of our troubles, in the main those good relationships have remained.

Saturday 15 August was a busy day in the town. The weather was good, and many mothers and children were together, no doubt buying school uniforms and getting ready to go back to school. Indeed, as the Prime Minister said, a festival was taking place too, and a number of floats were expected to parade through the town at 3.30 pm.

Just after 2.30 pm, a male caller made a call to the Ulster Television newsroom saying that a bomb had been placed outside the courthouse at the top of Main street,

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and it was due to go off in about half an hour. Three minutes later, a second call was made stating that the bomb would go off in 15 minutes. A further call was made to the Samaritans.

The police immediately went into action and expeditiously cleared the area round the courthouse, routeing many people to the bottom of the town into Market street, where they believed they would be safe. Later, a policeman standing in the centre of the town was expecting the bomb to go off to his right, at the courthouse--but it went off to his left, and he realised that the blast had taken place not at the courthouse but in Market street where the people had assembled.

That policeman quickly made his way down to Market street, but he was not prepared for what he met; it was utter carnage. He and his police colleagues were met with horrific sights, screams for help and mangled bodies, terrible injuries and blood everywhere. A water main had burst, and the water was washing parts of bodies down the side of the street. No doubt those sights will remain with them and with fellow officers who were quickly on the scene to help; those memories come back in their sleep at night as they relive the events they saw.

Like the Prime Minister, I wish to put on the record the excellent work done by the emergency services--the police, the Army, the RAF, the fire brigade and the ambulance men, and especially the members of the public who rushed to the scene and did everything asked of them.

The scenes at the local hospital were equally harrowing, as the numbers of the injured increased and relatives thronged the corridors searching for their loved ones whom they knew had been in the town and were unaccounted for. Again, I place on the record the valiant work done by the surgeons, the other doctors and nurses, the paramedics, and everyone else at the hospital. They did excellent work in stabilising many of the injured, in performing emergency life-saving surgery, and in making people ready for transfer to other acute hospitals.

There were also the ministers of religion and the people from the social services and the district council, who were called upon at short notice to deal with traumatised people, and who quickly made counselling services available. An incident centre was soon set up at the local leisure centre, and the work of collating information and identifying the dead and injured went on right through the night and the next day.

No one who was there will forget the scenes at the centre, as lists of the identified victims from the various hospitals were put on notice boards. Above all, there was the anguish of those whose relatives were unaccounted for, and who waited with decaying hope for news of their loved ones.

I pay tribute to the various hospitals that took the injured: Altnagelvin hospital, Erne hospital, South Tyrone hospital, the Royal Victoria hospital, Musgrave Park hospital, the City hospital and the Ulster hospital all readily received victims, and did magnificent work in treating them.

In all, as the Prime Minister said, 28 people lost their lives. Bombs are indiscriminate: they kill Protestants, Roman Catholics and Mormons; they kill all types of people; they kill children, mothers, grandmothers, sons and daughters. There are many people in Omagh today who mourn the loss of their loved ones.

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I should like to thank the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for coming and visiting us in Omagh. I should also like to thank the Prince of Wales for coming. He has known something of sorrow and distress, and when he came to Omagh, he readily identified with us there, and we felt that he empathised with us in our tragedy.

I pay tribute to the press and the other media. Sometimes they are criticised, but, except for one unfortunate programme, they behaved with extreme decency, were very understanding and did a good job.

Every decent person in Northern Ireland wants that bomb to be the last. We never want to see a bomb outrage like that again. The Real IRA has claimed responsibility for the bomb outrage. The security forces are convinced that the bomb was a deliberate attempt to kill men, women and children, and I agree with their assessment. It is hard to believe that people with such evil intentions are in our midst, but it is true. They have killed before, and they are quite prepared to do it again. They must be stopped.

I therefore welcome, as far as they go, the changes that will be made in the law in order to help defeat terrorism. Of course they are too late and too little, and no doubt, when we debate the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill, there will be an opportunity to say more about that.

I thank all hon. Members for their sympathy and their condolences this afternoon, which I am sure will be very much appreciated by my people in Omagh.

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