Judge refuses free legal aid to NI bomb suspect


A Northern Ireland man whose business had "gone down the tubes" because he had been branded as the Omagh bomber was refused free legal aid by the Special Criminal Court yesterday.

Mr Colm Murphy told the court that he had got no new contracts since he was charged in connection with the Omagh bombing. Mr Justice Morris, presiding, said that until recently he was a "relatively wealthy gentleman both from the point of view of capital assets and income". He said the court did not think it necessary for the State to make assets available for Mr Murphy's defence and refused his application for free legal aid.

Mr Murphy (47), a father of three, building contractor and publican, is a native of Co Armagh with an address at Jordan's Corner, Ravensdale, Co Louth. He is charged with conspiring in Dundalk with another person not before the court to cause an explosion in the State or elsewhere between August 13th and 16th last year. He is also charged with membership of an illegal organisation, styling itself Oglaigh na hEireann, on August 14th last year.

Det Sgt Maureen McGrath of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation said that Mr Murphy was a director along with his wife of a company that owned a pub in Dundalk. He also owned 30 acres of agricultural land outside Drogheda with his sister, the family home at Ravensdale valued at £100,000, 10 acres of land outside Dundalk and a plot with six sites at the Newry Road.

Mr David McManus, an accountant with the Bureau of Fraud Investigation, said that last August Mr Murphy had written three cheques for £80,000 to each of his three children and these were lodged in building society accounts in their names and his wife's.

He said Mr Murphy's estimated tax liability for 1998-1999 was £108,503, and he would estimate from that figure an annual income of £200,000. He said there was an average credit balance in the 20-month period ending November 30th last year of £300,000 in his business account with AIB in Ashbourne.

Mr McManus said the balance in his current bank account at February 4th this year was £159,000. Mr Murphy said in evidence that the vast majority of the money in his current account was already committed to finishing a contract and to unpaid taxes.

Mr Murphy also said he had had to lease the pub in Dundalk after he was charged and he believed he would never work again because he had been charged with the Omagh bombing.

Mr Justice Morris said the court would refuse the application for free legal aid and further remanded Mr Murphy until March 21st next.