Relatives of the Omagh bomb victims today began an action in the Special Criminal Court in Dublin seeking documentation to help their £10m (€15.1m) claim against those suspected of carrying out the 1998 atrocity.
Lawyers for the relatives applied to the court for transcripts and books of evidence relating to a number of recent trials at the court involving men who are named in the Belfast High Court action.
The relatives are taking the action against Michael Mc Kevitt, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy, Seamus Daly, and another man currently awaiting trial on explosives charges.
The Belfast court action is due to start next January and former FBI agent David Rupert who gave evidence in the trial of Real IRA leader Michael Mc Kevitt in Dublin last year will be one of the witnesses called by the relatives' legal team.
The Omagh bombing, which was claimed by the Real IRA, killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, and injured more than 300 in August, 1998. It was the worst single terrorist atrocity in the 30 years of the Troubles.
Michael Mc Kevitt, aged 54, of Beech Park, Blackrock, Co Louth, was jailed for 20 years last August for directing the activities of a terrorist organisation and for membership of an illegal organisation.
Colm Murphy, aged 51, of Jordan's Corner, Ravensdale, Co Louth, was jailed for 14 years in January 2002 after he was convicted of conspiracy to cause an explosion between August 13 and 16, 1998.
Liam Campbell, aged 41, of Upper Faughart, Dundalk, Co Louth, was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment last May for membership of the Real IRA on separate dates in 2000 and 2001.
Seamus Daly, aged 33, of Culloville, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, was jailed for three and half years last May after he pleaded guilty to membership of the Real IRA on November 20, 2000.
Today, Lord Daniel Brennan, QC, instructed by H2O Law LLP, who appeared on behalf of the Omagh relatives, told the court that Mc Kevitt and Campbell are being sued on their own behalf and as representing the Real IRA.
He said that Murphy, Daly and the other man are being sued individually.
He said: ``This is a most unusual application. The civil claim in the north is possibly unique. This is a totally unique case that merits an exception approach by the court.’’ Lord Brennan said that a trial date in the north has been fixed for January 17 next year.
Mr James Mc Guill, solicitor, representing McKevitt, Campbell and Daly, said that the question of the court’s jurisdiction to deal with the application arose. He said that the Special Criminal Court is a ``a creature of statute’’ and entertaining third-party applications is not part of its jurisdiction.
He said that McKevitt’s appeal is pending and he would be very concerned that anything would occur in the application that could compromise that appeal.
Mr Michael Farrell, solicitor for Murphy, said that he was ``somewhat surprised’’ to find himself in court as a similar application for the trial transcript had been made at the end of the Murphy trial and had been turned down.
He said that Mr Murphy’s appeal is expected to be heard in the next law term.
Mr George Birmingham, SC, for the DPP, said that there was ``a live issue‘’ in relation to the court’s jurisdiction. He said it was also a complicating factor that different panels of the court had dealt with the different trials.
Mr Paul O’ Higgins SC, for the Attorney General, said that a question arose as to the court’s jurisdiction.
He said the Attorney General is anxious that the applicants succeed in getting access to copies of the transcripts and books of evidence but there is a question mark over the court’s jurisdiction.
Mr Farrell and Mr Mc Guill applied for an adjournment to allow counsel to be briefed and to allow applications for legal aid.
Mr Justice Richard Johnson, presiding, said that it would be ``invidious to proceed in a situation where persons whose future could be adversely affected’’ were denied access to counsel.
He adjourned the application until Friday when the court will hear further submissions on legal representation and legal aid and when the court will be in a better position to fix a date for hearing the application.