Men held liable for Omagh bombing will be pursued for £1.6 million damages

Wednesday’s court victory for families would be ‘hollow’ if action not taken to recover damages, says father of victim

Omagh family members Michael Gallagher (left), who lost his son Aidan, and Stanley McComb who lost his wife Ann, in the Omagh bomb attack. Photograph: PA

Omagh family members Michael Gallagher (left), who lost his son Aidan, and Stanley McComb who lost his wife Ann, in the Omagh bomb attack. Photograph: PA

Fri, Mar 22, 2013, 06:00

It is imperative the four men held responsible for the 1998 Real IRA Omagh bombing are pursued for £1.6 million in damages, Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the explosion, has insisted. Otherwise Wednesday’s court victory in Belfast would be a “hollow” one, he said.

It will be now up to the legal representatives of the Omagh families who were successful in their case against Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly to seek to recover the £1.6 million damages, which were originally awarded in 2009.

The families, however, must wait at least six weeks before their London solicitors, McCue and Partners, can start proceedings to recover money, property and other assets from Murphy and Daly and from former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt and Liam Campbell, who were held liable for the bombing in a previous case.

In his Belfast High Court judgment on Wednesday against Murphy, a builder and publican from Dundalk, Co Louth, and Daly, a bricklayer from Cullaville in Co Monaghan, Mr Justice Gillen went out of his way to emphasise that the Omagh families had been waiting too long to achieve a degree of justice.

While he held that Murphy and Daly were some of those responsible for the bombing on August 15th, 1998 that killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, and injured and maimed more than 200 other people, he nonetheless granted their legal teams six weeks in which to decide whether to lodge an appeal.

Matthew Jury, a solicitor for the Omagh plaintiffs, said yesterday that financial compensation would be pursued on behalf of the families, but that he was not in a position to make any further comment pending a decision on whether Murphy and Daly would appeal.

No one has been criminally convicted for the Omagh bombing but following Wednesday’s civil court judgment, Murphy, Daly, McKevitt and Campbell, who recently successfully fought arms smuggling extradition proceedings to Lithuania, are now formally named as being responsible for the attack.

On Wednesday, Lord Brennan for the families and his fellow QC Brett Lockhart made clear that recovering the £1.6 million awarded to the families against the four men would be a priority. “Enforcement [for the damages] will be pursued with vigour here and in any relevant jurisdiction,” said Lord Brennan.

The concern however will be that McKevitt, Murphy, Campbell and Daly will seek to portray themselves as “men of straw” – an anxiety underscored by the fact that Murphy and Daly were granted free legal aid. There will also be suspicions that the men may have already acted to conceal or disperse their assets.

Legal sources were adamant that, as Lord Brennan had stated, the men would be pursued with “vigour” and that there were legal strategies available to recover money and property, most of which may be in the South.

“Regardless of what happens, the emphasis will be on making life as difficult as possible for them,” said one senior legal source.