Omagh families to take civil action

RELATIVES of those who died in the Omagh atrocity yesterday said they owed it to the victims to pursue their civil action against Michael McKevitt, who they described as a terrorist who led an organisation that killed innocent people.

The families on the frontline of the campaign to keep alive the memories of those who died at Omagh gathered at the Special Criminal Court to hear the guilty verdict handed down to McKevitt.

"We are determined to see the civil action through to court," Victor Barker, who lost his 12-year-old James, said outside the court. The civil action is proceeding against five named individuals, all of whom are now in prison on Real IRA-related charges.

They include McKevitt, his righthand man Liam Campbell and Seamus McGrane, described in court as the director of training in the organisation that grew out of the 1997 split with the IRA.

Kevin Skelton, who lost his 39-year-old wife Philomena in the 1998 blast, said: "I am happy that McKevitt is going to prison but would rather he had been convicted in connection with the Omagh bomb."

During the trial, evidence was heard that McKevitt admitted Real IRA involvement but said the other dissident group, the Continuity IRA, were "80% responsible". There can be no 20% or 80% responsibility, said Mr Barker, any person involved in mixing the bomb, transporting or leaving it where mothers and children were shopping is 100% guilty.

Asked if he had a message for McKevitt, Michael Gallagher, who lost his 21-year-old son Aiden, said: "The reason you are where you are today is because you have wrecked a large number of lives and you have wrecked your own life."

Stanley McCombe's wife Anne died as she walked through Omagh town with her friend. He believes the judges should throw away the key. "We now know what we suspected all along, that McKevitt is a terrorist, a man who has the blood of innocents on his hands. We owe it to those who died to have our say in court and put our case against those who we think are responsible," said Mr McCombe.

Laurence Rush spent almost every day in the Special Criminal Court during McKevitt's 26 day trial, sitting just yards from the accused's wife Bernadette. He said of the verdict: "You make your bed and you lie in it and the judge will decide how long he will lie in it."

Detective Chief Superintendent Martin Callinan, who led the 30-strong garda team in the investigation described the verdict as significant. "This is a significant conviction but there is a continuing threat to the democratic process in this country," he said.

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