Belfast Telegraph

Families' fury as Omagh suspects bid to overturn £1.6m damages

By Chris Kilpatrick

Families of 29 people murdered in the Omagh bomb have reacted with fury to the news two suspects could have an order to pay compensation overturned.

Michael McKevitt and Liam Campbell were ordered to pay a share of £1.6m damages after being found liable for the Real IRA atrocity in a civil case brought by victims' relatives.

Yesterday it emerged the men's case to have the ruling overturned by the European Court of Human Rights had cleared an important legal hurdle.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that last month the court allowed the pair's case to pass through a "filtering" stage which is designed to weed out ineligible applications. The Government must give its response to the pair's arguments before European judges decide whether the case should go ahead for a full hearing.

The Omagh blast took place just months after the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

One of the those killed in the bomb was pregnant with twins at the time. Nobody has ever been convicted in a criminal court in relation to the attack.

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden was killed in the blast, said the move was a "psychological blow for victims".

"There seems to be no effective law for giving rights to victims," he said.

"The human rights laws to me would need to be looked at it again. It has always favoured the killer gangs and organisations and never the victims. It's always weighted on the side of the perpetrator and this news is extremely disappointing."

In 2009 McKevitt, Campbell and two other men were ordered to pay £1.6m damages over the bomb. It was the first time terror suspects had been sued in this way.

They appealed to the Court of Appeal in 2011, an application which was rejected. A bid to go to the Supreme Court also failed.

A retrial in March last year of the civil case against Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly delivered the same outcome as the earlier hearing.

McKevitt (64) is currently serving a 20-year jail term after being convicted of IRA membership and directing terrorism by a Dublin court in 2003.

Campbell (52) was jailed by the same court for eight years in 2004 for IRA membership.

Their lawyers claim their rights were breached under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to a fair trial. Their case relies on the use of hearsay evidence against them from David Rupert, an FBI agent who infiltrated the dissident group. Earlier this month Daly was charged with the bombing.

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Stanley McComb, whose wife Ann was killed in the blast, said: "Those b******* will go to any length and any extreme and it's all just a cynical exercise for them.

"These guys... can get all the support they need to get this into a European court.

"Britain paid all their legal aid for their defence against the civil action which was outrageous, totally, totally outrageous."

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