Northern Ireland

Omagh bombing civil retrial lawyers cleared to quiz Garda officers

Omagh bomb scene
Image caption Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed in the Real IRA attack

Lawyers for Omagh bomb victims' relatives have won permission to question police officers in the Irish Republic.

The questioning is part of the civil retrial of two men being sued over the atrocity.

A High Court judge granted their request to be allowed to examine witnesses and take evidence in the Republic.

The case against Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly is due to begin at the High Court in Belfast next week.

The two men are defending an action brought by relatives of some of the 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, killed in the 1998 Real IRA outrage.

They were ordered to face a retrial after their appeals against being held liable for the bombing were upheld.

Two other men found responsible in the initial landmark ruling, convicted Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt and fellow dissident republican Liam Campbell, failed to have the findings against them overturned.

Opposed

As part of the new hearing the plaintiff's legal team applied to the trial judge for permission to question some witnesses in the Republic.

They include Denis O'Connor who allegedly spoke to Daly on the day of the bombing.

They also want to take evidence from two Garda officers about Mr O'Connor allegedly identifying Daly and having previous phone contact.

The application was opposed, with lawyers for the defendant arguing that the relevant regulation confined the process to taking straightforward depositions, rather than contentious litigation.

It was also claimed that the planned legal examination was contrary to the laws of evidence in both jurisdictions as it included leading questions.

But granting the application, Mr Justice Gillen ruled that it complied with the regulation.

No-one has been successfully criminally convicted of the bombing which devastated the County Tyrone market town.

In June 2009 McKevitt, a convicted Real IRA leader serving a 20-year jail sentence; Campbell, a farmer from County Louth currently fighting extradition to Lithuania over an alleged arms smuggling plot; Murphy, a Dundalk-based builder and publican; and Daly, from Culaville, County Monaghan, were all found liable for the bombing in a civil ruling.

Mr Justice Morgan, now Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice, ordered them to pay £1.6m in compensation.

But in July last year three judges in the Court of Appeal upheld the appeals of Murphy and Daly.

Mr Justice Gillen will now decide the case against them again at a hearing expected to last six weeks.

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