Friday 23 February 2018

Seamus Daly profiled: The bricklayer and Real IRA foot soldier who walked free

Seamus Daly pictured leaving Maghaberry prison in Northern Ireland after the case against him was dropped. Photo: PA Wire
Seamus Daly pictured leaving Maghaberry prison in Northern Ireland after the case against him was dropped. Photo: PA Wire

Michael McHugh

Seamus Daly was once described by a High Court judge as a Real IRA foot soldier.

The evidence linking him to the dissidents' Omagh bombing was described as overwhelming by one of Northern Ireland's most senior judicial figures during a claim for damages by grieving relatives.

The bricklayer, originally from Cullaville, Co Monaghan, was connected by Belfast's High Court to mobile phones used during the bombing.

In 2013, a judge ordered Mr Daly and three others to pay the bereaved families civil damages worth €2m after they were found liable for the bombing.

Yesterday, a criminal court cleared Mr Daly of 29 murder charges at Omagh. He was held in prison awaiting trial for nearly two years.

His defence had protested throughout lengthy legal proceedings that he had no case to answer.

When the evidence against him was tested last month and prosecution star witness Denis O'Connor contradicted himself under cross-examination, it became clear the accusations were crumbling.

Mr Daly's lawyer, Peter ­Corrigan, said the case against his client was based on a ­witness who was himself arrested as part of the ­bombing probe. He claimed Mr O'Connor gave an account to gardaí in 1999 and gave three or four other versions. The implication was clear - his word could not be relied on.

Mr Corrigan also said his client had an alibi for the time when he was supposed to be involved in the murder.

The bricklayer's militant republicanism stretches back to at least 2004 when he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in the Republic after admitting membership of the outlawed Real IRA, which carried out the Omagh attack.

Two Belfast civil cases, one in 2009 and a retrial in 2013, only had to prove on the balance of probabilities that the respondents were behind the bombing. A judge concluded the evidence against Mr Daly and three others was overwhelming.

The judge in the original civil case said he was satisfied that Mr Daly was in possession of one of the two phones which were used by the occupants of the bomb car and the getaway car on the day of the attack. A one-month retrial of the civil case was shown data from mobile phone masts that tracked calls made from two phones as they moved from the Republic to Omagh and back across the border ahead of the bombing on August 15, 1998.

But criminal prosecutors had to establish Mr Daly's guilt beyond all reasonable doubt and yesterday that barrier was judged too high.

Lawyers for Mr Daly said he was living openly in the North before his arrest but was detained by the PSNI in Newry, Co Down, as he accompanied his wife to the town's maternity hospital.

Irish Independent

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