Category: Archive

Garda chief ‘confident’ of Omagh bombing trial

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN – Gardai commissioner Pat Byrne believes members of the hard-line Real IRA group who took part in the Omagh bombing two years ago will be brought before a court.

"I am very confident that at some time in the future those people who were actually involved may face the court," the commissioner told reporters last week at a graduation ceremony at the Garda College in Templemore.

"It is a very difficult investigation. We are making progress, but we have a long way to go yet. A lot of things have happened that are not in the public arena."

The commissioner recently visited a team of detectives based in the border region to be briefed on progress in the investigation.

In recent weeks, 12 people have been questioned under the Section 30 of the Offenses Against the State Act, which allows them to be detained for 72 hours.

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So far, only one man has been charged in connection with the August 1998 car bombing that killed 29 and injured about 200 others.

Dundalkman Colm Murphy, 48, will face charges of conspiracy in the three-judge, no-jury Special Criminal Court in the new year.

The commissioner said remarks he made in an interview with the Belfast Irish News earlier this year — when he said that the masterminds behind the attack would probably escape conviction — had been misinterpreted and that he was not referring to "volunteers on the ground."

"I was discussing the masterminds, the armchair generals, and we all know armchair generals very seldom appear before the courts," Byrne said.

"I still hold the same view in relation to armchair generals. I think historically very few of them ever faced the court."

Byrne said that if necessary he would use the witness-protection program to help get convictions.

"I wish we could, but bear in mind the first thing you need is a witness who is going to give evidence," he said.

The witness-protection program was only set up after the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, 36, who was shot in June 1996 by members of a drug gang.

The commissioner said he didn’t welcome the BBC’s "Panorama" program that named a number of men linked to the bombing on the basis of calls from mobile phones.

"It was not helpful to the investigation. The whole issue or principle of identifying people doesn’t help," he said.

The three latest people to be questioned about the bombing were released last weekend. The woman and two men arrested in Louth and Monaghan had been held in the inquiry investigation headquarters in Monaghan Garda station.

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