Justice at last for Omagh Real IRA victims

Posted by Niall O'Dowd at 6/8/2009 8:53 AM EDT

Welcome to O.J. Simpson justice Irish style. Remember O.J. was never convicted in a court of the murder of wife Nicole and her lover but a subsequent civil case found him guilty and bankrupted him.

Now a similar situation has taken place in Northern Ireland. Unable to successfully prosecute the alleged bombers in Ireland's worst atrocity, the relatives of the dead have instead won a huge symbolic victory in civil court.

It is a stunning victory for those who lost 31 loved ones on that awful day that will live forever in infamy.

A maroon Vauxhall Cavalier car was stolen from Carrickmacross in nearby Monaghan on 13th of August 1998. The car, filled with 500 pounds of explosives, was parked outside a clothes shop on Omagh's Lower Market Street on Saturday, August 15th.

It was the busiest day of the week in the Tyrone town, and shoppers were flooding the downtown area. There were two Spanish tourists, a woman pregnant with twins, even a visiting Mormon as well as ordinary Catholics and Protestants. They would all be blown to bits.

The bomb had been placed there by the Real IRA, the splinter group who disagreed violently with the IRA ceasefire and the move to politics by Sinn Fein. Just 13 weeks earlier the Good Friday Agreement had been signed between all the parties in the conflict. This was to be the Real IRA response.

Three phone calls were made warning of the bomb. The bombers said an explosion would take place on Main Street -- alas, there is no main street in Omagh. They said it was beside the courthouse so people were moved away from that area -- right into the area of the explosion.

There is an incredible photograph showing a man and a child on his shoulders standing beside the parked car just as the bomb is about to go off. The camera was later found among the rubble.

Mobile phone record later identified four men as the suspects in the bombing. They were Oliver Traynor, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly.

The last three were those found culpable in the civil case on Monday. The other man found guilty was Michael McKevitt, the founder and leader of the Real IRA.

In a strange way Omagh was a turning point. The Real IRA were forced to call off their campaign after the bombing, so widespread was the revulsion. President Clinton and Tony Blair visited Omagh together and planted wreaths at the memorial.

It was the worst of times for Northern Ireland but somehow, from great evil came good.

The victory of the families is a similar story. At last they have some peace knowing that Justice Declan Morgan, set to be the be next Chief Justice there, has agreed with their findings as to who is responsible.

The families can now rest easier knowing a measure of justice has been done.

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