Decision today as pair appeal Omagh civil action verdict

Rescue workers and police search for survivors following the 1998 Omagh bombing
Rescue workers and police search for survivors following the 1998 Omagh bombing

The European Court of Human Rights is today expected to come to a decision on an appeal by two men who were found liable for the 1998 Omagh bombing.

Nobody was ever convicted, but victims brought a successful civil action for damages against Michael McKevitt and Liam Campbell, convicted Real IRA men.

Subsequent appeals by them in relation to this civil action were dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2011 and by the Supreme Court in 2012.

But McKevitt and Campbell have now told the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg that a large part of the evidence relied on by the plaintiffs was provided by a witness who did not attend the trial, and could not be cross-examined, FBI agent David Rupert.

Their lawyers have appealed to the ECHR that they were therefore denied their human right to a fair trial as the case against them was “fundamentally criminal in nature” but they were not given the protections necessary.

They argue that the use of Rupert’s “hearsay evidence” also violated their right to a fair civil trial.

However Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the RIRA atrocity, says the men concerned have benefited enough from the courts compared to victims of terrorism.

On August 15 1998, a 500lb bomb exploded in Omagh, killing 29 people, as well as two unborn children, and injuring over 300.

It was the single worst atrocity of the Troubles.

Mr Gallagher said the Omagh families are not involved in any way in today’s case.

“This is at government level,” he said.

“We did not even know about it until the beginning of this week. We did not get an opportunity to make a submission.

“David Rupert did not give evidence in Belfast for security reasons – he did not come to Belfast.

“These issues were all examined at length at the time.

“However Rupert was cross-examined at length in McKevitt’s own trial in Dublin where he got 21 years for directing terrorism.

“My feeling is these people have been given every benefit of the legal system and lost on every occasion.

“Contrast this with the [IRA] Birmingham bomb victims who have not been able to secure legal aid to progress their campaign for the truth about that atrocity.”

TUV leader Jim Allister QC says Brexit will not affect appeals to the ECHR, as it operates under the Council of Europe and not the European Union.