BELFAST (Reuters) - Two Irish nationalists were found liable for the 1998 Omagh bombing by a Northern Irish High Court on Wednesday and ordered to join two others in paying damages for the worst single attack during decades of violence.
Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly faced retrial after successfully appealing two years ago a finding that they were responsible for the bombing in which 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed, and more than 200 were injured.
Relatives took the civil action after police failed to secure any criminal convictions over the bombing. The only man to stand trial on a murder charge was acquitted in 2007 and families said they would ask authorities to take a second look.
The Omagh bombing occurred just months after a peace deal was struck which largely ended more than three decades of violence between mainly Catholic Irish nationalists seeking union with Ireland and predominantly Protestant unionists who want to remain part of the United Kingdom.
“It’s a great judgment for the families,” Michael Gallagher, whose son died in the bombing, told Reuters after leaving the court.
“We are going to write to the Chief Constable and the Public Prosecution Service and ask them to look at this judgment and the evidence and see if there is any way they can use it to bring them before the criminal courts.”
The two men, along with Michael McKevitt and Liam Campbell, were ordered to pay relatives of some of the dead 1.6 million pounds ($2.4 million).
Neither Murphy, a builder and publican, nor Daly, a bricklayer, were in court to hear the verdict, nor had they turned up to give evidence at the hearing which started in January and ended last month.
Justice John Gillen said the case against the men was “overwhelming” and that he had drawn inference by their decision not to attend and defend themselves.
“Given the strength and quality of the evidence I have determined that both defendants were involved in assisting the preparation, planting and detonation of the bomb,” he said in a 77-page reserved judgement.
During the retrial, lawyers for the families argued that Murphy supplied mobile phones to the bombers and Daly was linked to a call made on one of the phones just after the explosion.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Michael Roddy