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BBC names 4 as Omagh suspects

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — The BBC has identified and named four men it says have failed to explain where they were on the day of the Omagh bombing and who, it says, are prime suspects in the continuing RUC/Garda Siochana investigation into the August 1998 massacre.

The "Panorama" program named the four men on Monday after two unsuccessful legal challenges in Belfast High Court, one taken by the husband of one of the Omagh victims, the other by the Commission for Human Rights.

The High Court refused both applications, which sought to prevent the program’s transmission. It consisted of reconstructions of the bombing, actual film taken after the explosion showing injured people lying in the road, and film of a reporter trying to get the four men to answer his questions.

It also interviewed four relatives of the victims, speaking about their grief and shattered lives after the atrocity, which was carried out by the dissident republican Real IRA group.

Twenty-nine people died and more than 200 were injured when a car bomb, left by the Real IRA, exploded in the County Tyrone town on a busy market day. Only one man has been charged in connection with the bombing. He and three others were named on Monday.

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There were mixed views on whether the program should have named the four with some fearing it could result in defendants brought before the courts arguing they could not get a fair trial and winning acquittals.

One of the four, Liam Campbell, who was also named as the head of the Real IRA by the BBC, has already been questioned and charged with membership of an illegal organization. He was remanded in custody when he appeared in the Dublin Special Criminal Court the day after the program.

A second man, Colm Murphy, a publican and builder in County Louth, faces charges in the Republic of conspiracy to murder. The other two named were Seamus Daly, a builder from Culloville in South Armagh, and Oliver Trainor, a glazier from Dundalk).

The evidence linking them to Omagh consists almost exclusively of mobile phone records on the day of the bombing. The BBC’s reporter, John Ware, attempted to confront all four to ask them about their movements on the day of the bombing, but none chose to do so.

Lawrence Rush, whose wife, Libbi, was killed at Omagh, said the last thread of hope he had that anyone would be convicted was severed by the program. He called it a "cheap, cheap program."

"The danger now is my wife might never get justice," he said. "Trial by media is dangerous. An innocent person could be blamed or a guilty one get off. This is a disaster for my family and for Northern Ireland."

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission failed in its bid to prevent the program going ahead after Justice Kerr ruled there was no reason to suppose that criminal proceedings, whether before a judge alone, or a judge and jury together, would be compromised by the showing of the program.

The Commission had claimed that naming people questioned about the bombing would prejudice any future fair trial. Rush’s lawyers said he was concerned a fair trial might be impossible if the program was shown.

A BBC spokesman said: "Many of the victims’ relatives wanted the program to be broadcast. They and many others hope that the transmission of this program will help bring to justice those responsible for the Omagh atrocity."

Earlier on Monday, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had said the documentary could hinder attempts to secure convictions for the blast. "Bandying around names on television programs won’t help the victims," he said. "In actual fact, the legal people say it could well hinder them."

Support for the BBC came from Michael Gallagher, who lost his 21-year-old son Adrian. "Nobody was put on trial," he said. "People were simply asked to explain their movements. Given the size and severity of the atrocity, any reasonable person would want to cooperate with police and clear their name."

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