Prominent republicans found liable for Omagh bombing in landmark case
TWO republicans have been found liable for the Omagh bombing following a landmark civil action taken by relatives of some of the victims.
Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly were ordered to face a retrial after they successfully appealed a finding of liability against them in the original case in Belfast High Court.
But their second trial delivered the same outcome in the same court, with judge Mr Justice John Gillen ruling the men were responsible for the 1998 Real IRA atrocity.
Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, died when the dissident republican car bomb ripped through the Co Tyrone market town on August 15 1998. More than 200 were injured in the blast.
No-one has been successfully criminally convicted of the bombing, but in 2009 Murphy, a builder and publican from Dundalk, Co Louth, and Daly, a bricklayer from Cullaville, Co Monaghan, and two others were held responsible in the initial civil action taken by some of the bereaved families.
Along with Real IRA chief Michael McKevitt and Co Louth republican Liam Campbell, the men were ordered to pay £1.6 million in damages.
McKevitt, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence in the Irish Republic for directing terrorism, and Campbell, who recently successfully fought extradition proceedings to Lithuania on arms smuggling charges, failed in their bids to overturn the Omagh civil judgment.
They are now seeking to have their case heard in the European Court of Human Rights.
Murphy and Daly's appeals were upheld but both men were ordered to face another trial. The retrial started in January and finished last month, with Mr Justice Gillen delivering his reserved judgment today.
Neither defendant was in court for the judgment. Both men also declined to give evidence during the trial.
Mr Justice Gillen said the case against them, which was primarily based on mobile phone evidence, was "overwhelming".
The judge said he had drawn a negative inference from their failure to provide any explanation in court.
"Given the strength and quality of the evidence, I have determined that both defendants were involved in assisting the preparation, planting and detonation of the bomb in circumstances where those involved in assisting those acts would be joint tortfeasors (individuals who committed a wrongful act injuring another person)," he said.
Justice Gillen said time had not diminished the impact of what had happened in Omagh.
"The barrier of time has not served to disguise the enormity of this crime, the wickedness of its perpetrators and the grief of those who must bear its consequences," he said.
"Even 15 years on, nothing can dilute the pulsing horror of what happened."
Representing the families, Lord Brennan QC had asked the judge to make a ruling that would have prevented the defendants' ability to appeal his judgment, stressing the length of time the relatives have waited for closure.
Justice Gillen said he had great sympathy with the families and acknowledged the stress the lengthy civil proceedings had caused them.
But he said he did not want to interfere with the fundamental right of appeal and granted the defendants six weeks to lodge one.
Lord Brennan said the bereaved relatives were determined that the damages would be paid.
"Enforcement will be pursued with vigour here and in other relevant jurisdiction," he said.
Solicitor for the families Matthew Jury said the Omagh bombers had not furthered any cause.
"It was a massacre of the innocent that left a scar on families, their community and their country that has not healed," he said.
"By bringing this civil action, their victims showed that they will not be intimidated and that justice will be done."