Yesterday 24th August 2011, Garda Informer Paddy Dixon narrowly avoided death, when a sophisticated bomb exploded at his ‘safe’ house in Navan, County Meath. So here The Irish Observer reminds you who Paddy Dixon is and what he is alleged to have done.
Senior Irish police have been accused of ignoring a clear warning about the Omagh bomb atrocity to protect a Real IRA informer, Paddy Dixon, whose identity can be revealed today by The Irish Observer.
A secret transcript of a conversation between the informer, Paddy Dixon, and his police handler, Garda Sgt John White, details of which are published for the first time today, contains allegations that the bomb was allowed to 'go through' to preserve Dixon's role in the terrorist organisation.
In the recording, made only days before the informer was forced to flee Ireland, Dixon warns the Irish state that 'Omagh is going to blow up in their faces'.
Dixon, a master car thief who infiltrated the Real IRA for the Garda, is now living on the Continent under a police witness protection programme. In the transcript he admits to his handler that detectives let the bombers slip across the border in order to give him credibility.
Last night relatives of those killed in Northern Ireland's single biggest terrorist atrocity, which claimed 29 lives in August 1998, said they were stunned by Dixon's revelations. They called for a public inquiry, on both sides of the Irish border, into his claims.
Dixon and his Garda handler, Detective Sergeant John White, also allege that a clandestine deal between the Irish government and the Real IRA just weeks after the bombing led to charges being dropped against eight men arrested following the explosion.
The families demanded that Dixon be handed over to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for questioning. The informer has never been offered to the northern force for interview.
Dixon had provided intelligence on nine different Real IRA bomb plots between February and August 1998. He had organised the theft of cars for the Real IRA, which were used to transport bombs and mortar rockets into Northern Ireland.
Five of the attacks were thwarted thanks to Dixon's information but four were allowed to go ahead to maintain his credibility.
The Observer has obtained the 54-page transcript of the taped conversation between Dixon and his handler during which the informer says that he gave the Garda intelligence about a stolen car to be used in a bomb in Northern Ireland just 24 hours before the Omagh massacre.
'They [the Real IRA] had got a car and they [the Garda] knew it was moving, they knew it was moving within 24 hours at that stage,' Dixon tells White on the tape, recorded on 10 January 2002.
They talk about the police force's failure to track stolen cars around the border area in the hours leading up to the car bomb being taken from the Irish Republic across the border into Co Tyrone.
The informer tells his handler that the Garda wanted him to sign a document stating he would only be moved from Ireland to safety if he refused to talk to the press.
The tape was recorded after Dixon escaped from a Dublin safe house. He contacted White to discuss his future, and a fortnight later he was spirited out of Ireland.
The Observer has also established that the Northern Ireland police team investigating Omagh not only believes Dixon and White's testimony but spent three days in July 2002 debriefing White at a secret location in the Scottish Highlands.
The southern detective told his PSNI colleagues then that one of his Garda superiors told him he had decided to let the bomb go ahead. The senior officer's reasoning was that Dixon had fallen under the terrorists' suspicion after several Real IRA plots, including a plan to leave a car bomb in London, had been thwarted. The senior Garda said Dixon's credibility had to be protected, White told the PSNI investigation team.
When White protested that people might get killed if there was no action on Dixon's intelligence that a bomb was being shipped across the border the same weekend as the Omagh atrocity, his superior reminded him that the Real IRA had failed to kill anyone in eight previous attacks that year.
White and Dixon's version of events from the time the informer was recruited in early 1998 until the Omagh atrocity eight months later is now firmly believed by both the PSNI Omagh team and Nuala O'Loan, the Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland, The Observer has learnt.
When O'Loan received the tape in March 2002 she went the following day with her senior investigating officer Dave Wood and handed a copy of the recording over to the Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen. As a result of that meeting the Irish Cabinet agreed to set up an independent investigation into the handling of intelligence, Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the atrocity, said the victims' families had no faith in the Dublin-based inquiry. Instead he called for an international public inquiry to be held on both sides of the Irish border.
Gallagher said the families believed White and Dixon's allegations.
'The intelligence services in Dublin, notably some senior Garda officers, were playing Russian roulette in 1998 with Paddy Dixon's information.'