Belfast Telegraph

Michael Gallagher still dreams of justice for Omagh bomb victims

By Chris Kilpatrick

During a restless night, Michael Gallagher's dreams were dominated by the son robbed from him 16 years ago.

Hours later, Michael stared into the eyes of one of the men suspected of the horrific 1998 bomb attack which tore through the bustling town centre of Omagh on a Saturday afternoon.

Alongside daughter Cat, Mr Gallagher – who has campaigned tirelessly for justice since the atrocity – sat just feet away from Seamus Daly.

The high-profile republican was led into the packed courtroom in Dungannon handcuffed to a prison officer.

A large number of his friends and family in the public gallery were warned ahead of proceedings that any unruly behaviour would result in them being ejected from the building.

Police officers were positioned throughout the courtroom, with dozens more surrounding the courthouse throughout the hearing.

Dressed in a dark hoodie and jeans, he glanced over at the media as the charges were put to him by the judge.

A detective said he could connect Daly to all 33 charges he faces, including the murder of 29 innocent men, women and children.

The evidence against Daly, the court was told, consisted forensic material, telephone records and information from witnesses.

The court was told Daly had set up a new life for himself in the Newry area where he has lived with his wife for the past two years.

It was at a hospital in the city that officers arrested him on Monday as he attended with his heavily-pregnant wife.

She was due to give birth yesterday, according to a defence lawyer.

The judge rejected the defence's bail application, with Daly led from the dock to be taken to prison until his next court appearance.

As he rose, he looked round to the public gallery to engage his supporters.

Instead, he briefly made eye contact with Mr Gallagher, the devastated father who only recently told this newspaper he had given up hope of ever seeing anybody brought to justice for the Omagh atrocity. Daly was led on by security staff and as he was leaving the courtroom raised a hand to his relatives.

Afterwards, Mr Gallagher admitted it had been a challenging morning and while the prospect of another trial was daunting for many of those affected, it was his duty, he said, to see justice done for those killed.

"It's difficult, it's been a difficult morning and a difficult few days," he said.

"Over the past 15 years I've spent a lot of time in courts in Belfast and Dublin.

"It can be soul-destroying to hear the repetitive arguments.

"We should have had justice a long-time ago."

Mr Gallagher said his 21-year-old son Aiden remained in his thoughts every day.

"I dreamt about him last night," he said. "You just wonder why you were there, why you were not allowed to grieve, why you were not allowed to get on with a normal life.

"Because of the person he was we cannot just walk away.

"We have to know the truth about what happened and we have to see those responsible brought before the courts."

Mr Gallagher said there was a number of important outstanding issues regarding the Omagh bombing which the authorities had not yet addressed.

He reiterated calls for a public inquiry, a request rejected by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers last September.

"I think there's a major problem the Irish and British governments have in that two years ago we gave them a report that said Omagh was a preventable tragedy," he said.

"It's important the police on both sides of the border continue to pursue terrorists but it's also important we know how the intelligence was shared, who it was shared with and what action was taken as a result."

Omagh suspect held as he visited hospital with his pregnant wife 

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