Immediately after McKevitt became the first person in the Republic jailed for directing terrorism, the British government made the unprecedented announcement that it would pay for the private prosecution brought by relatives of the people who died in the blast five years ago this week.
And David Rupert, the FBI informer whose testimony helped convict McKevitt, may testify again to support the civil action. The families have also indicated that they may issue a writ against Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, the wife of the Real IRA leader and a sister of dead hunger-striker Bobby Sands, after Rupert told Dublin’s Special Criminal Court that she was third in the dissident paramilitary group’s chain of command.
The relatives are pursuing the civil case because no one has been directly convicted of carrying out the Omagh attack, which exploded on a crowded shopping street on Saturday, Aug. 15, 1998, killing 29 adults and children along with unborn twin baby girls. It was the worst death toll from any single incident in the Troubles.
Although the British government insisted last week that the Omagh manhunt remains the largest criminal investigation in Northern Ireland, it seems unlikely that they will secure a criminal conviction after five years.
The decision to extend funding to the families’ action now makes a civil court the most likely venue for a direct examination of the Real IRA’s role in the bombing. At the time of the announcement, the relatives had been