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Omagh bomb victims wait 18 years for compensation

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 30/08/2016

The Real IRA bomb attack in Omagh in 1998
The Real IRA bomb attack in Omagh in 1998
Aiden Gallagher who died in the blast
Michael McKevitt
Seamus Daly
Michael Gallagher

People injured in the Omagh bombing are still waiting on compensation - nearly two decades after the Real IRA massacre which devastated the town.

Paperwork delays and red tape have meant some personal injury claims linked to the 1998 atrocity have yet to be settled.

Those affected are believed to be among the most seriously injured.

The 18-year wait has been branded "extraordinary" by victims' families, who described the compensation process as "horrendous".

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was among the dead, said it was "absolutely shocking".

"If a case is not resolved within 18 years, how long will it go on?" he said.

"Here we are, almost two decades since it happened. It really is quite extraordinary."

The Omagh bomb was the single worst atrocity in 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

Twenty-nine died and hundreds more were injured when a 500lb car bomb exploded in the Co Tyrone town on August 15, 1998.

The death toll included nine children and three generations of the same family.

Most of the compensation claims were settled in the years immediately following the blast.

By 2005 more than £20m had been paid out in respect of 826 claims.

However, enquiries by the Belfast Telegraph have established that two cases are yet to be resolved.

Compensation Services falls under the remit of the Department of Justice.

A spokesman said: "Compensation Service has two outstanding personal injury claims in connection to the Omagh bomb.

"Both cases are being held by Compensation Services until further instruction is received from the victims' legal representatives."

Mr Gallagher helped form the Omagh Support and Self Help Group, which worked with many of the victims.

He said the compensation process had been "horrendous".

"It is determined on the monetary value that you will lose as a result of your injuries," he explained. "There can be drastic variations between two people who might otherwise look to have very similar circumstances. It is a very arbitrary system."

He added: "The compensation is something that nobody wants to even face because of the circumstances.

"Then, when you do face that, there are all sorts of answers demanded of the victims."

In 2008 the Belfast Telegraph reported that nine claims had still to be settled.

At the time Compensation Services, then known as the Compensation Agency, said the process had been hampered by a delay in receiving evidence to support some of the claims.

It said the unresolved cases "represent some of the most seriously injured and thereby the most complex of claims".

West Tyrone MLA Ross Hussey said it was unacceptable that some victims are still waiting on compensation.

"I would have thought any claim would have been settled within a reasonable period of time, and nobody could describe 18 years as reasonable," he said.

"This should have all been sorted years ago.

"I can't understand why any claim would drag on so long.

"I would call on the relevant departments to look on this sympathetically and try and get it resolved as soon as possible, for all the parties involved.

"Nobody would have expected that, 18 years later, this matter would still be unresolved."

No one has been convicted in a criminal court of bombing Omagh.

At the time, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the bombers would be "pursued to the utmost".

But despite a huge cross-border police investigation costing tens of millions of pounds, they have never been brought to justice.

In June 2009 a landmark civil case taken by victims' relatives concluded with four men - Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly - being held responsible.

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

A fifth man, Seamus McKenna, who died in July 2013, was cleared of involvement.

In April 2014 Mr Daly, a bricklayer from Jonesborough, south Armagh, was arrested and charged with 29 counts of murder.

He also faced charges of causing the explosion and possessing the bomb, and two charges relating to another bomb plot in Lisburn in April 1998.

He denied the charges, and in March they were withdrawn after the Public Prosecution Service decided there was no reasonable prospect of his conviction.

Belfast Telegraph

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