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Sunday 22 April 2018

Omagh families give up hope of any convictions after acquittal

Breda Heffernan and Sarah Stack

THE families of the Omagh bomb victims now accept that nobody will be brought to justice for the atrocity after the Special Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday acquitted the only man who had been convicted over the attack.

Following the dismissal of the case against Colm Murphy, the families said the way was now clear for the holding of a full cross-border public inquiry.

Mr Murphy (57) walked free after the non-jury court cleared him for a second time of plotting to cause the 1998 attack which killed 29 people -- including a woman pregnant with twins -- and injured more than 300, many of them seriously.

The builder, who is a native of Co Armagh but has an address at Jordan's Corner, Ravensdale, Co Louth, was jailed for 14 years by the Special Criminal Court in 2002 after he had been found guilty of conspiring to cause the Real IRA massacre. He was later cleared on appeal and has been on bail since then.

Mr Murphy was facing a retrial but yesterday the three judges dismissed the State's case after ruling that there was no evidence with which he could be convicted.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Murphy said: "I am glad to see it's all over. Find out who was behind it -- MI5 agents setting people up."

The judges ruled that the falsification of garda interview notes which emerged at the original trial in 2002 had "tainted" all the garda interviews and that the accused therefore had to be given the benefit of the doubt by the court.

Det Gardai John Fahy and Liam Donnelly were charged with forgery and perjury after the original trial but both were acquitted. Det Garda Donnelly has since died.

The prosecution had claimed that Mr Murphy loaned two mobile phones to a man who was involved in transporting the car bomb from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, to Omagh, where it exploded on August 15, 1998.

Powerless

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden (21) was killed in the bombing, said the families had been disappointed time and time again. He said yesterday was the first time in years that he had felt angry.

"The families are waiting for almost 12 years. This is a crime that the (British) prime minister, the Taoiseach and the president of the United States all took a personal interest in and everyone on the island of Ireland expected those responsible to be brought to justice.

"As far as the criminal process is concerned, this is the end of the line."

Mr Gallagher said that as the families could no longer get justice, the least they now deserved was the truth and he called for the immediate establishment of a cross-border public inquiry into the bombing.

Last June, relatives of the victims won a landmark civil action against four men -- including Mr Murphy -- whom they blamed for the attack.

Mr Gallagher said: "The civil action the families took is really the only successful action and it has been up to the families themselves to take that action. It's a very sad reflection of the state of the criminal justice systems, North and South.

"The people who perpetrated the evil act in Omagh and their colleagues continue to plant town-centre car bombs as we've seen this week and have killed two soldiers and a policeman.

"They are intent on causing as much carnage as possible and the authorities seem powerless to stop them."

Mr Murphy is the second man to be acquitted in relation to the Omagh atrocity.

Sean Hoey, an electrician from south Armagh, walked free from Belfast Crown Court in December 2007 after a judge had cleared him of all charges related to the bombing and a host of other Real IRA attacks.

Irish Independent

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