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Saturday, 11 August, 2001, 07:07 GMT 08:07 UK
Real IRA 'must be accountable'
Omagh devastation
Twenty-nine people were killed at Omagh
A lawyer for the families of the Omagh bomb victims has said they represent a community which has "had enough of terrorism".

The relatives say a civil action against five men with alleged links to the Real IRA, is their last hope for justice.

The paramilitary group killed 29 people in the County Tyrone town with a car bomb three years ago.

Speaking on Breakfast with Frost on BBC television on Sunday, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said he wished the families well in their civil action.

"I certainly do wish the Omagh victims well, my heart goes out to them and the suffering they have endured. I think all of that shows how huge the responsibility is for us as elected leaders not to fail those people but to work to ensure the peace process succeeds and the Good Friday Agreement is implemented in full", he said.

Relatives of the victims gathered in Omagh town centre at 1506 BST on Saturday, the time the bomb detonated, to formally launch their campaign.

The meeting was also used to launch a further fundraising drive, with solidarity events in Belfast, Dublin and London.

'Deserve justice'

Civil writs seeking compensation were issued at the Northern Ireland High Court in Belfast on Friday.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was among those killed, said: "We had no choice but to take this action.

The public should salute the stand that these courageous families are taking for us all

Omagh Relatives

"Our families are not capable of fighting for themselves, but they deserve justice and it's our responsibility to make sure it's delivered."

It is believed to be the first time a writ has been issued against a paramilitary organisation.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said that, for legal reasons, he could not express support for the families' action, but nevertheless felt a "great deal of understanding" for their position.

He insisted that the police investigation into the bombing was still continuing in the hope of bringing criminal charges.

Killed and maimed

The five men named in the writs are Seamus McKenna, of Silverbridge, Newry, County Down; Michael McKevitt, of Blackrock, Dundalk, County Louth; Liam Campbell, of Mount Pleasant, Dundalk, County Louth; Colm Murphy, of Ravensdale, Dundalk, County Louth and Seamus Daly, of Culloville, near Castleblaney, County Monaghan.

There is also a writ against the Real IRA as an organisation.

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.

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

Civil cases require a lower burden of proof than criminal proceedings.

The families have been trying to raise 1m to cover the costs of the legal battle.

Fund launch

The Omagh Victims' Legal Trust has raised nearly a third of its target total, including a donation of 50,000 from an anonymous donor three days ago.

Remembrance service for the victims a week after the bomb
Tens of thousands turned out to pay their respects after the bombing

Jason McCue, the lawyer representing the families, said the action taken by the families was ground-breaking.

Mr McCue read a statement on behalf of the families at the Omagh event, in which they said they would be "making history" in their legal action.

The statement said: "The families have undertaken this brave course of action out of respect for their loves ones - nothing more, nothing less."

It added: "The public should salute the stand that these courageous families are taking for us all. The public should support and back these families in any way they can."

Mr McCue said the families represented a community that had "had enough of terrorism".

"The Real IRA claimed responsibility for the bomb. This action is about making it accountable."

The Real IRA is also believed to be responsible for a spate of bomb attacks in London, including the Ealing car bomb last week.

The BBC's Andy Tighe
"The families are demanding damages"
Michael Gallagher
"These people will not stop - it's only a matter of time before someone will die"
Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
"The authorities continue to do everything possible"
See also:

23 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Dissidents behind bomb attack
31 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Omagh relatives meet Northern secretary
30 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Mandelson meets Omagh bomb relatives
18 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Omagh relatives mount protest
25 Oct 00 | UK Politics
No public inquiry into Omagh
03 Oct 00 | Northern Ireland
Real IRA 'fully to blame' for Omagh
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