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Seamus Daly backs calls for Omagh bomb public inquiry

Seamus Daly speaks after the case against him collasped this week. Picture by Mal McCann 
Connla Young

A MAN cleared of taking part in the Omagh bomb has said there needs to be a public inquiry into the Real IRA attack which claimed the lives of 29 people.

Seamus Daly was speaking after the case against him collapsed this week.

In his first interview, the south Armagh man described the devastating explosion as a "tragedy" and said it "should never have happened."

Twenty-nine people, and unborn twins, died when the republican group set off a bomb in the Co Tyrone market town in August 1998.

The father-of-three, who denied having any involvement in the bomb attack, had been facing 29 charges of murder and was accused of taking part in a Real IRA bomb attack in Lisburn in April 1998.

The Omagh case has been shrouded in controversy amid claims that authorities could have stopped the bomb getting across the border.

In 2007 south Armagh man Sean Hoey was found not guilty of taking part in the attack at Belfast Crown Court.

In 2013 Daly was found liable for the Omagh bomb along with another man in a civil case taken by relatives of those who died.

The decision to drop this week’s case against came after inconsistencies in evidence given by Co Kilkenny builder Denis O’Connor during preliminary hearings held last week.

The prosecution had claimed that O’Connor received a phone call from Daly on the day of the blast from a phone they believed was used by the bomb team.

However, during a hearing last week the prosecution witness admitted under questioning from defence barrister Brenda Campbell that the call may have been made a week before the attack effectively ending the prosecution case.

"I have been blamed over a phone call that I never made and that has been admitted in court," Daly said yesterday.

He said he will now challenge the 2013 civil court’s decision because it also relied on evidence provided by O’Connor.

During last week’s hearing the media was banned from reporting on the court hearings which were held in Omagh.

Daly, who describes himself as a proud republican, said he was being used as a "scapegoat".

"They have picked five or six republicans and they have labelled them with this, five or six republican families around the border region," he said.

The republican said he had been living openly in the north for five years before he was arrested in Newry in 2014 and believes the timing of his arrest was connected to legal action by Omagh relatives who are campaigning for a public inquiry.

"I was living in the north for five years," he said.

"I was going in and out of the north and was stopped (by the PSNI)," he said.

He said he believes there should be a public inquiry into the Omagh bombing.

"I don’t know anything about the Omagh bombing but I believe the Brits could have prevented it," he said.

In 2004 he admitted to Real IRA membership and was sentenced to three and half years in prison.

On Wednesday night, he said he admitted to the membership charge on one day in 2001 under advice from his solicitor while standing on the steps of the special criminal court in Dublin.

Mr Daly said the whole incident has placed a strain on him and his family.

"If you were me could you get work anywhere?" he asked.

"While it is nothing compared to what the Omagh families have suffered you are tainted, it has tainted the whole family.

"They have made me out to be the big bad wolf."

His solicitor Peter Corrigan said: "From the commencement of the prosecution we made oral submissions before the resident magistrate stating the inconsistencies and unreliability of Denis O’Connor’s evidence.

"These inconsistencies are in the papers since 1999 so we don’t know why he was prosecuted in the first place."

Mr Corrigan called on authorities to carry out analysis of the "totality of the mobile phone evidence and not just the partial evidence provided by the prosecution”.

Meanwhile, Omagh campaigner Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed in the explosion, said he also has concerns.

"These are genuine concerns and ironically the concerns we have had in many cases," he said. "We have already raised these issues and raised them in the public domain."

He said relatives believe some of the evidence presented raises questions.

"We have concerns about the quality of the evidence and why it was nine plus years old and we are struggling to understand why the evidence was resurrected," he said.

"Our problem was one single witness was the main plank in this case and we had a preliminary hearing which is normally a procedural matter.

"Seldom has a case fell at a preliminary stage. There were nine other witnesses to give evidence that were not heard.

"We have very serious concerns about how this case was managed."

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