Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Time to arrest Omagh bombers, say families

Omagh bomb victims’ relatives Michael Gallagher and Stanley McCombe leave Belfast High Court
Omagh bomb victims’ relatives Michael Gallagher and Stanley McCombe leave Belfast High Court
The scene of the Omagh bomb attack in 1998
The scene of the Omagh bomb attack in 1998

Relatives of the Omagh bomb victims have called for criminal proceedings to be brought after two men were found liable for the Real IRA attack.

A judge ruled there was overwhelming evidence linking Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly to the 1998 atrocity, which killed 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins.

It followed a landmark civil action taken by the victims' families seeking damages from the men they believed were responsible.

Last night relatives vowed to pursue the £1.6m compensation granted by the courts.

Murphy and Daly were found liable following a retrial, having successfully appealed a previous ruling in 2009 which found them responsible.

Two other men held liable in that initial ruling, convicted Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt and Liam Campbell, had failed to have the findings against them overturned.

To date, no one has been successfully criminally prosecuted for the bombing, however relatives said they hoped yesterday's ruling could lead to a fresh criminal inquiry.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed, said relatives would be writing to Chief Constable Matt Baggott to press for proceedings against the four men.

"We have not given up on a criminal conviction – that is what we wanted in the first place," he said.

"Sadly, it was left up to the families to get a result and to hold people to account for this crime."

The decade-long civil action, which could still be subject to another appeal, is estimated to have cost the taxpayer millions in legal aid and court bills.

The 12 relatives who had taken the action were awarded more than £1.6m in damages.

Stanley McCombe, who lost his wife Ann in the bombing, called for the courts to ensure the order was enforced.

"When you go before a court and are fined for whatever you do, you pay your fine or your debt to society," he said.

"So why should these people get away?

"Why should they live in the lap of luxury?" The 500lbs bomb ripped through the town's Market Street on the afternoon of August 15, 1998.

The dead included men, women and children. Another 200 were injured.

Murphy, a Dundalk-based contractor and publican, and Daly, from Culaville in Co Monaghan, were accused of playing central roles in the bombing.

Neither defendant was in court as Mr Justice Gillen delivered his 73-page ruling following the four-week civil trial.

The judge said the case against the pair, which was primarily based on mobile phone evidence, was overwhelming.

There was compelling circumstantial evidence that two phones linked to Murphy were used in the attack, he said.

Murphy denied lending his phone to anyone on the day of the bombing or ever being in Omagh, and had no rational explanation for how the phone came to be used without his knowledge.

However, the judge said his explanations were "wholly implausible and in my view amount to lies".

Mr Justice Gillen referred to a similar unexplained use of the same phone in a bomb attack in Banbridge a month earlier.

"To suggest that for a second time his phone had been mysteriously used without his knowledge moves one into the realm of fantasy," he added.

The case against Daly was focused on his conversation on one of the phones less than an hour after the explosion.

In 2004, Daly was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail in the Republic after admitting membership of the Real IRA.

The judge added: "I was satisfied that the plea of guilty amounted to a public confession of his involvement with IRA terrorist activity."

Speaking afterwards, Matthew Jury, a solicitor for the Omagh families, said some justice had been achieved.

"By bringing this civil action, their victims showed that they will not be intimidated and that justice will be done," he said.

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