Wednesday 17 January 2018

Families demand fresh probe into Omagh atrocity as pair found liable

Adrian Rutherford

RELATIVES of the Omagh bomb victims have called for criminal proceedings to be brought after two men were found liable for the Real IRA attack.

A judge ruled there was overwhelming evidence linking Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly to the 1998 atrocity, which killed 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins.

It followed a landmark civil action taken by the victims' families seeking damages from the men they believed were responsible.

Last night relatives vowed to pursue the £1.6m (€1.9m) compensation which had been granted by the courts.

Murphy and Daly were found liable following a retrial, having successfully appealed a previous ruling in 2009 which found them responsible.

Two other men held liable in that initial ruling – convicted Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt and Liam Campbell – have failed to get the findings against them overturned.

To date, no one has been successfully prosecuted for the bombing.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed, said relatives would be writing to PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott to press for proceedings against the four men.

"We have not given up on a criminal conviction – that is what we wanted in the first place," he said. "Sadly it was left up to the families to get a result and to hold people to account for this crime."

The decade-long civil action, which could still be subject to another appeal, is estimated to have cost the taxpayer millions in legal aid and court bills.

The 12 relatives who had taken the action were awarded more than £1.6m (€1.9m) in damages.

Stanley McCombe, who lost his wife Ann in the bombing, called for the courts to ensure the order was enforced.

"When you go before a court and are fined for whatever you do, you pay your fine or your debt to society," he said.

Murphy, a Dundalk-based contractor and publican, and Daly, from Culaville in Co Monaghan, were accused of playing central roles in the bombing.

Neither defendant was in court as Mr Justice Gillen delivered his 73-page ruling following the four-week civil trial.

The judge said the case against the pair was overwhelming.

There was compelling circumstantial evidence that two phones linked to Murphy were used in the attack, he said.

Murphy had no rational explanation for how the phone came to be used without his knowledge, the judge said, and his explanations amounted to "lies".

Confession

Mr Justice Gillen referred to a similar unexplained use of the same phone in a bomb attack in Banbridge a month earlier.

"To suggest that for a second time his phone had been mysteriously used without his knowledge moves one into the realm of fantasy," he added.

The case against Daly was focused on his conversation on one of the phones less than an hour after the explosion.

In 2004 Daly was sentenced to three and a half years after admitting membership of the Real IRA.

The judge added: "I was satisfied that the plea of guilty amounted to a public confession of his involvement with IRA terrorist activity."

Speaking afterwards Matthew Jury, a solicitor for the Omagh families, said some justice had been achieved.

"By bringing this civil action, their victims showed that they will not be intimidated and that justice will be done," he said.

Irish Independent

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