Monday 26 September 2016

Omagh families: Our last chance for justice is gone

Case against Seamus Daly is dropped

David Young and Michael McHugh

Published 02/03/2016 | 02:30

Police and firefighters inspecting the damage caused by a bomb in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in 1998. Photo: PA Wire
Police and firefighters inspecting the damage caused by a bomb in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in 1998. Photo: PA Wire

Relatives bereaved in the Omagh bomb attack have questioned whether they will ever get justice after the prosecution of a man accused of the murders collapsed.

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The case against bricklayer Seamus Daly, who was charged with murdering 29 people in the 1998 Real IRA outrage, was dropped yesterday.

Daly (45) had been on remand in prison since being charged with a range of terror offences in April 2014.

Seven years ago, Daly was one of four men successfully sued for bombing the Co Tyrone town when he was found liable for the attack in a landmark civil case taken by bereaved families.

Disappointed

But no-one has ever been convicted of the murders in a criminal court.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed, attended yesterday's hearing in Ballymena Magistrates' Court.

"Here we are again after 18 years. ­Extremely disappointed," he said.

"We've been let down by the police service, by the PPS (Public Prosecution Service), by the criminal justice system. And this is probably, or was probably, the last chance for justice."

Daly, from Co Armagh, has always denied involvement in the bombing which inflicted the greatest loss of life in the history of the Troubles.

The dead came from both sides of the Border, England and Spain. One of the victims was pregnant with twins.

The dramatic decision by the PPS came before Daly's case had even reached the floor of the Crown Court.

A pre-trial hearing began in Omagh Magistrates' Court last week to establish whether the evidence in the case was sufficient to warrant such a trial. But that decision was taken out of District Judge Peter King's hands, as the PPS withdrew the charges before the hearing had reached a conclusion.

The decision came after inconsistencies emerged in the evidence of a key prosecution witness, Kilkenny builder Denis O'Connor. His evidence had been subject to reporting restrictions until the charges were dropped.

Mr Gallagher said he agreed, regrettably, with the PPS decision.

"This was a difficult case and hinged on the testimony of one individual and that one individual did not seem to be up to meeting the test needed to put someone behind bars," he said.

"For that reason I agree with the decision, regrettably, that happened today."

As well as the 29 murder counts, Daly, from Kilnasaggart Road, Jonesborough, Co Armagh, had faced charges of causing the August 1998 explosion and possession of a bomb with intent to endanger life or property. He was further charged with conspiring to cause an explosion and having explosives with intent in connection with a separate bomb plot in Lisburn in April of the same year.

All charges have now been dropped.

Family and friends who had been campaigning for Daly's release said he had been "interned" for 23 months.

A statement from the Release Seamus Daly group said: "The case against Seamus Daly has been flawed from the beginning. The British Government along with the prosecution proceeded against Seamus with no tangible evidence."

Daly's solicitor, Peter Corrigan, said his client had been held in custody for a considerable period of time for offences which he vehemently denied.

Irish Independent

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