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Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 19:36 GMT
Omagh civil action bid launched
Former Northern Ireland Secretaries Peter Brooke, Tom King, Peter Mandelson and Lord Merlyn-Rees
Former Northern Ireland secretaries back the campaign
The Omagh Victims' Legal Fund has formally launched its bid to raise 1m to bring a civil action against the alleged perpetrators of the car bomb, which killed 29 people.

An estimated 150,000 has already been raised and relatives have until August to meet their financial target before the three-year limitation period for personal injury claims expires.

There can be no lasting peace without justice and we ask everyone for their support in getting some justice for those who died

Victor Barker

The initiative received the backing of former Northern Ireland Secretaries, including Peter Mandelson, Tom King, Peter Brooke, Lord Hurd, Lord Prior and Lord Merlyn-Rees, who signed a statement of support at Westminster on Wednesday.

Eighteen adults, including a woman heavily pregnant with twins, and 11 children were killed when a bomb exploded in Omagh in 1998.

'Stand up to terrorism'

Victor Barker, whose son James, 12, was among the dead, said: "This campaign is not political, not motivated by a partisan interest or bitterness or a desire for revenge, but by a desire for justice.

"There can be no lasting peace without justice and we ask everyone for their support in getting some justice for those who died.

"This is a campaign in which members of the public can contribute and stand up themselves against terrorism, rather than simply relying on the police and the armed forces.

"Omagh is with us every waking hour. As time passes, there is no real healing, we simply learn to live with it a little better every day."

He expressed hope that a civil action could help uncover new evidence needed to secure prosecutions.

Relatives say desperation at the lack of prosecutions has prompted them to pursue the major suspects in the civil courts.

Such a case requires a lower burden of proof than criminal proceedings.

Relatives will seek financial compensation for the killings, although they say money is not the motivation behind the case.

Victor Barker, father of one of the Omagh victims
Barker: Desire for justice
Mr Mandelson, who resigned from the government last month, has been recruited by relatives of the Omagh bombing to front the legal trust, as has former Tory Northern Ireland secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew.

Mr Mandelson, who first met those relatives last October, while he was still Northern Ireland secretary, described the Real IRA as "the single biggest threat to the peace process in Northern Ireland".

"They have no shame, no conscience and no inhibition in carrying on their murderous activities," he said.

Dissident republican paramilitaries in the Real IRA admitted responsibility for the attack.

No-one has been charged with the murders, but one man is currently awaiting trial in the Irish Republic accused of conspiracy to cause explosions.

Donations to the Omagh Victims' Legal Fund can be made by credit card on a telephone hotline 0870 9072000.

Cheques made payable to Omagh Victims' Legal Fund can be sent to account number 10084990 at the Royal Bank of Scotland, 1 Fleet Street, London EC4 or to the Henry Hepworth Organisation at 5 John Street, Holborn, London WC1N 2HH.

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30 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Mandelson meets Omagh bomb relatives
25 Oct 00 | UK Politics
No public inquiry into Omagh
06 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Omagh inquest hears first evidence
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