Omagh accused retrial 'a clear public interest'

Prosecutors in the North today insisted there was a clear public interest in bringing the only man jailed in connection with the Omagh bomb atrocity before a retrial.

Prosecutors in the North today insisted there was a clear public interest in bringing the only man jailed in connection with the Omagh bomb atrocity before a retrial.

Colm Murphy (aged 53) is trying to halt attempts to bring him before the courts again on conspiracy charges linked to the 1998 blast, the worst single massacre of The Troubles.

Shane Murphy SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, dismissed claims by the accused that brain damage suffered in a car crash 10 years before the bombing would interfere with his right to a fair hearing.

Dublin High Court judge Iarfhlaith O'Neill reserved his judgment in the judicial review case and will rule later whether Murphy will have to face a new trial.

Mr Murphy said there was clear evidence the accused could cope with his short-tern memory loss condition and had done so very successfully with his construction business.

"The question is can he take part in a trial and I say all the evidence says that he can," he told the court.

He maintained there was a clear public interest in Murphy being brought before the courts again given the gravity of the allegations against him.

Any claims of prejudice because of the time between the offence and a new hearing were no more than would arise in any retrial and had nothing to do with delays, he insisted.

Michael O'Higgins SC, for Murphy, said there was an inexcusable and inexplicable delay in bringing proceedings against his client who had lost his wife, successful business and become a social pariah over the case.

It is alleged the accused lent a mobile phone for use in the Real IRA bomb outrage nine years ago in the North which killed 29 people, including a mother pregnant with twins.

Judge O'Neill has said he would take into account new evidence that Murphy's short-term memory loss as a result of the car accident could interfere with his right to a fair hearing.

Murphy, with an address at Mount Pleasant, Dundalk, Co Louth, sat alone at the back of the court room during the three days of the judicial review hearing.

The Co Armagh man was freed on bail in 2005 after the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned his 14-year sentence and quashed his conviction on conspiracy charges linked to the bombing.

A retrial was ordered after it was found the original trial court failed to give proper regard to altered interview notes by investigating gardaí.

The hearing was supposed to open in the non-jury Special Criminal Court last January but was postponed to allow for the judicial review challenge.

Two detectives accused of forging interview notes and committing perjury during Murphy's trial were last year acquitted of the charges.

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