Omagh man 'has no case to answer'
The case against a man accused of a dissident republican bombing in Northern Ireland which killed 29 people could be dropped, a court has heard.
A senior barrister is due to give the DPP a "final opinion" on whether murder charges against Seamus Daly linked to the 1998 Omagh bomb should proceed to trial within three weeks, a lawyer for the prosecution service said.
A lawyer for Daly, aged 44 and from Jonesborough in South Armagh, told Omagh Magistrates' Court there was no case to answer.
District judge Bernie Kelly said: "If there is, even at this stage, a possibility that this might well not be proceeded then it is incumbent on all of us to ensure Mr Daly is not incarcerated for an hour longer than necessary."
She added: "There is at least a possibility that this may take a certain course; if that were the case then that decision has to be made sooner rather than later."
Evidence is still being sought from Irish police about the worst atrocity of the Troubles but three quarters of it has already been received, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) told Omagh Magistrates' Court.
The judge said she wanted the decision within three weeks, predicting that the senior counsel opinion would decisively "inform" the decision of the DPP.
"I would have thought it highly unlikely that a senior prosecutor or directing officer is going to go against the decision of a senior counsel."
Daly faces 29 counts of murder over the August 1998 car bomb, which exploded in the centre of the Co Tyrone town on a busy Saturday and killed shoppers from Ireland, Britain and Spain. A woman pregnant with twins and nine children were among the dead.
The 44-year-old bricklayer from Kilnasaggart Road, Jonesborough, County Armagh, also faces counts of causing the explosion in Omagh and possession of a bomb in the market town with intent to endanger life or property.
He is further charged with conspiring to cause an explosion and having explosives with intent in connection with a separate dissident republican bomb plot in Lisburn, County Antrim, in April that year.
Michael Chambers, counsel for the PPS, said a senior barrister had cleared his diary: "To provide a final opinion on whether or not there will be a prosecution."
Mr Chambers said the advice would be received by the DPP within two to three weeks and a decision taken within four.
A massive cross-border manhunt was launched after the bombing.
An international letter of request was sent by the authorities in Northern Ireland to police in the Republic of Ireland in August and 80% of the material requested has been collated.
Peter Corrigan, the defendant's solicitor, said there was no prima facie case.
No one has ever been convicted in connection with the Omagh massacre.
Daly lived near the Irish border before he was arrested at a retail centre car park in Newry, County Down, in April.
He appeared before the court via video link from prison where he is being held pending trial or discharge.