Wednesday 13 December 2017

Omagh bombing: Seamus Daly remanded on murder charges

THE prosecution case against a high profile republican charged with murdering 29 people in the Omagh bombing is based on phone, forensic and witness evidence, a court has heard.

A detective said the decision to charge Seamus Daly, 43, who has previously been successfully sued over the Real IRA outrage, had been taken in consultation with the "highest level" of Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service after reviewing a range of evidence allegedly linking the Co Monaghan bricklayer and publican with the August 1998 attack.


Appearing at Dungannon Magistrates' Court, Daly, originally from Cullaville, Co Monaghan in the Irish Republic but now residing in Jonesborough, Co Armagh, was remanded in custody after deputy district judge Paul Conway refused a bail application.


Daly, who has a previous conviction in the Irish Republic for IRA membership, has already been found liable for the Omagh bomb in a landmark civil case heard at Belfast High Court.


Last night, detectives charged him with 29 counts of murder and a number of other charges.


He also faces counts of causing the explosion in Omagh; possession of a bomb in the Co Tyrone market town with intent to endanger life or property; conspiring to cause an explosion in Lisburn, Co Down in April 1998; and possession of the Lisburn bomb with intent.


He was arrested by officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Serious Crime Branch in Newry on Monday as he accompanied his wife to the town hospital's maternity unit. Arguing for bail, his lawyer Dermot Fee told the court that the baby's due date - the couple's second child - was today.


Opposing bail, the PSNI detective said Daly claimed to be his brother when he was stopped by police and was only formally identified through fingerprint analysis.


Dressed in jeans and a dark grey hooded top, unshaven Daly did not speak during the half hour hearing.


He sat in the dock only yards in front of the public gallery, where Michael Gallagher, whose son 21-year-old Aiden died in the blast, looked on.


After outlining broad details of the case against Daly, the PSNI detective said the accused responded "no comment" to every question asked during interviews but had given a pre-prepared statement to police denying all the counts.


The officer said he opposed bail on the grounds that Daly might not turn up for the next court hearing, might flee the jurisdiction or might interfere with potential witnesses.


But Mr Fee claimed there were "significant weaknesses" in the prosecution case.


He said much of the evidence had already been discredited during previous legal proceedings linked to the bombing.


"There is nothing new and nothing fresh that hasn't been available for a long number of years," he said.


With his family now based in Jonesborough and his wife heavily pregnant, Mr Fee insisted that his client would not consider fleeing.


He said Daly also wanted to contest the case against him.


"Why would he flee in circumstances such as this?" Mr Fee asked.


But Judge Conway said he was concerned that Daly could potentially cross the border into the Republic of Ireland and refused bail. He was remanded in custody to appear in court again via video link in the summer.


The 29 victims, who included a woman pregnant with twins, died after the dissident republican car bomb detonated in Omagh town centre on a busy Saturday afternoon.


It was the single bloodiest terrorist attack in the history of the Northern Ireland Troubles and came only months after the signing of the historic Good Friday peace accord.


No-one has been successfully convicted of the bombing in a criminal court.


Jonesborough electrician Sean Hoey was cleared of involvement after a marathon trial at Belfast Crown Court in 2007.


Five years ago Daly was one of four men found responsible for the bombing at Belfast High Court after being sued by some of the victims' families.


The men were ordered to pay £1.6 million to the bereaved relatives - money they are still pursuing.


Daly, who has always denied involvement, faced a civil retrial after successfully appealing against the original finding, but the second trial delivered the same outcome as the first, with judge Mr Justice John Gillen ruling him responsible for the attack.


After today's hearing Mr Gallagher said he felt it was important to attend.


"This is part of our life for the past 15 and half years and if it's happening we are going to be there, whereever that is," he said.


Mr Gallagher, who was accompanied by his daughter Cathy, added: "We were conscious of the fact that this individual had a lot of supporters around us (in the public gallery) and there is always that kind of pressure but it is still important to be there, it was important for our presence for the people, in our case our son Aiden, it was important to be there and represent him because there was no one else going to do it."


Mr Gallagher said the latest legal proceedings linked to the case would not side-track the families' campaign for a cross-border public inquiry into alleged security failings in the lead-up and aftermath of the attack.


"We need the truth," he said.


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