Seamus Daly was cleared last month of 29 murder counts resulting from the 1998 Omagh bombing.
Leaving Maghaberry prison, Daly did what he has done for the last 18 years. He stayed silent as he moved from a prison van to a waiting car.
The next day, he did a brief interview with the Irish News in the presence of his wife, Aine, and his solicitor, Peter Corrigan. In it, Daly joined calls for a public inquiry into the Omagh bombing.
If the inquiry Daly wants is to have real meaning, then he must appear before it and, it is hoped, the questions may be a little more probing than they were in the Irish News.
Recently, I wrote an online article asking six questions to Mr Daly that the inquiry should ask. He didn’t reply, and I know for sure that people close to him saw it.
I tweeted it three times but still no response. With that in mind, here are a few more questions that I think Mr Daly should answer if he is ever to fully clear his name of the worst ever terrorist attack in Northern Ireland.
1. What were you doing with explosives in November, 2000?
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Omagh bombing is that every single one of the chief suspects returned to car bombing after the national outrage began to die down. Liam Campbell, who made the botched warning calls, was caught organising a Real IRA meeting in a hotel south of Dundalk and was jailed. Seamus McKenna, Kevin ‘Kiddo’ Murray and a 19-year-old who armed the device in Omagh were all caught red-handed building car bombs within a few years of the atrocity.
Seamus Daly was placed under heavily surveillance and was seen moving fertiliser mix for bomb making to land being rented by his brother.
He admitted in court that, in November 2000, he was a Real IRA member and the explosives were used as evidence. The Omagh bomb was also made from ground-down fertiliser. Mr Daly clearly knows quite a lot about the technique for making this kind of bomb and he should tell the proposed inquiry what he knows about how they are made.
2. Why did a phone that was in Omagh on the day of the bombing call your home number?
The Belfast High Court has accepted that a phone normally used by Colm Murphy (found liable for the bombing along with Daly) called the Daly home number at a little after 5pm that day, when the full horror of the bombing began to be known.
This, the High Court found, led credence to the belief that Daly had the phone that day. That phone travelled from Monaghan up to South Armagh and then Omagh and back again at the exact time the bomb was planted.
Surely Daly would know who was using it and why it had called his home number. Incidentally, the phone also called Dennis O’Connor, a man who says he met Daly dozens of times and with whom he was pulling off a VAT scam.
Under extreme fear, O’Connor asked to give evidence at Daly’s recent preliminary hearing by videolinked but he was refused. In person, with Daly sitting just feet away, he said that he couldn’t remember when Daly had called him and that it might have been the week before. As a result, Daly walked free from 29 counts of murder.
3. Where were you on the day of the Omagh bombing?
It is such an obvious question yet Daly has made no public statement on it in the 16 years his name has been named as a suspect in the bombing.
He stayed silent when a BBC Panorama crew followed him around for days. (Coincidentally, the cameraman was a brother of one of the Provisional IRA’s ‘Disappeared. He told me of the many days they spent following Daly’s van around, trying to get him to respond, but he remained silent.)
Then the Omagh families spent ten years chasing Daly through the civil courts until they were awarded £1.6 million against him and three other suspects.
Again, through the entire decade, Daly never responded to their case and never said one word of where he was on August 15, 1998.
Imagine everything you do – from your wedding to your motoring offences, are photographed and appear on national newspapers mentioning you as linked to the murder of 31 civilians and the horrific maiming of dozens more in a bombing. And yet you never offer an explanation of where you were when that bomb was planted.
It seems obvious to say that Daly is hiding something. What exactly, he should tell the proposed inquiry.
4. Can you explain your relationship with INLA member Paul ‘Jaws’ Kelly of Cedarwood Park, Dundalk?
Kelly phoned Daly after 5am on the day before the Omagh bombing and made several calls after that. Why did Daly take calls and such an hour? What was requiring such urgent attention?
Perhaps it can be explained by the man who stole the bomb car just an hour earlier. The thief, in shock after the bombing, told gardai that he stole the car in Monaghan to order for Kelly.
Mr Kelly was later jailed for ramming a garda car during a car chase. In the boot of the car he was driving were stolen garda uniforms to be used for crimes. Gardai also found jackets with emblems of the political wing of the INLA. If the Omagh bomb inquiry does come about, Daly and Kelly should explain these phone calls.
5. Can you explain your friendship with dissident bombers Seamus McKenna and Kevin ‘Kiddo’ Murray?
McKenna and Murray, both deceased, are major suspects in the bombing. McKenna, Daly’s workmate, is suspected of driving the car bomb into Omagh with a 19-year-old from near Newry sitting in the passenger seat to prime the bomb. Murray is suspected of either making the first warning call or relaying the messages from Daly, who was in the scout car, to Liam Campbell, who was also making the warning calls.
Murray, like McKenna, is also suspected of mixing the bomb in a farmyard and both were later jailed for building bombs. Both were close friends of Daly and all three were gathered together in Colm Murphy’s pub on the night of the bombing.
Daly was part of the paramilitary colour party at McKenna’s funeral. Daly must explain his friendship with them – and that all three of them were talking about in Murphy’s pub as the rest of Ireland reeled in shock from the sheer scale of the civilian deaths.
• Sean O’Driscoll is a journalist and lawyer based in Dublin