Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Seamus McKenna's was a terrible, destructive, pointless life

A police officer looks at the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, Co Tyrone in 1998
A police officer looks at the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, Co Tyrone in 1998
Seamus McKenna
Seamus McKenna

So, last month, Seamus McKenna fell off a roof and died. Was he a mass murderer? Probably. Was he remorseful? Probably not.

McKenna was the only one of the five defendants in the Omagh civil case to have had his case dismissed in 2009. Although – in the remorseless way of the legal world – appeals still wind their way through the system as Liam Campbell, Seamus Daly, Colm Murphy and Michael McKevitt challenge their guilty verdicts, McKenna was off the hook.

Nonetheless, to those of us – lawyers, families and supporters – who had followed the case closely over 11 years, there seemed little doubt that he had been one of the two two-man teams (bomb car and scout car) that on August 15, 1998, delivered to Omagh on a sunny Saturday afternoon more than 300lbs of explosive that murdered 31, mutilated hundreds and devastated the lives of thousands.

I believe in the possibility of redemption, but what sickened me about McKenna was that – knowing the horrors of Omagh – he went on trying to kill.

In June 2002, he was given six years when found mixing 1,200lbs of home-made explosives.

According to Sean O'Driscoll's testimony, McKenna spent his last few years in assisted housing in Dundalk, lonely, isolated and alcoholic, terrified even to mention Omagh, yet boasting of how he would like to kill British soldiers.

His was a terrible, destructive, pointless life given a dreadful meaning by ignorant, blind hatred.

Those who wanted to give him a paramilitary funeral show the moral vacuum at their own centre, while the brave families who took the civil case against the bombers at least know that – through remorseless pressure – they exacted a measure of justice for their loved ones.

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