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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 20:49 GMT
'Shame' over Omagh civil action
Bob Geldof and Barry McGuigan are supporting campaign
Bob Geldof and Barry McGuigan: Supporting campaign
Irish pop star and the Live Aid founder Bob Geldof has said the public should be ashamed that relatives of the Omagh bomb victims have not been able to raise enough funds for their legal action.

Mr Geldof is among a number of celebrities and politicians who have backed the relatives' campaign to raise enough money to launch a civil action against the five men they believe were behind the attack.

Former world boxing champion Barry McGuigan, Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble and former secretary of state Peter Mandelson have also backed the families' drive to meet a 1.5m shortfall to fund a civil case.

Twenty-nine people died and two unborn children were killed by the dissident republican Real IRA car bomb detonated in Omagh, County Tyrone, on 15 August, 1998.

'Appalled'

Speaking at the Irish Club in London at a news conference organised by the Omagh Victims and Legal Action Group, Mr Geldof said the Omagh bombing was morally identical to the events of the 11 September terror attacks in the United States.

He said he was "appalled" by the lack of response to the families' appeal so far.

The group has until August, exactly a year after the civil writ was served, to reach its 2m target to fund the civil action.

But since the appeal was launched 18 months ago 600,000 has been raised.

Mr Geldof said: "Omagh was without question our September 11. There is no moral difference in any sense.

"I'm appalled by the lack of out-pouring from our two countries, Britain and Ireland.

"When you consider what was donated in cash from Britain and Ireland to the victims of the atrocity in America and what these people have received in pursuit of justice, then it leads us all to shame," he said.

"There are an awful lot of very wealthy Irish people in this country and in Ireland.

"I can't understand why they can't fund it and why people who aren't wealthy can't throw a few quid in the pot."

One prosecution

Mr Mandelson was recruited by the relatives of those killed in the explosion to front the legal trust along with former Tory Northern Ireland secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew.

Other well known figures, including best selling novelist Maeve Binchey, have supported the relatives' campaign.

Only one person in the Irish Republic has been brought to justice for charges relating to the bomb.

Last month, Colm Murphy was jailed for 14 years for conspiracy to cause an explosion.

Lawyers acting for the relatives have said their case is ready to put before the courts if the funding can be found.

'Omagh officer will not be replaced'

Meanwhile, Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan has said he will not remove the investigating officer currently heading the Omagh bombing investigation.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan '
Sir Ronnie Flanagan '"will not" replace Omagh inquiry head

Relatives of some of the victims wrote an open letter to Sir Ronnie demanding a new officer be appointed.

If followed a report by the Northern Ireland police ombudsman which was critical of the way the investigation had been handled.

But speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, Sir Ronnie, who has said he will leave the force by the end month, said replacing the officer heading the Omagh inquiry would "significantly reduce" the chances of catching the bombers.

He said: "I am certainly not going to remove the current senior investigating officer.

"The reason I would not contemplate changing that officer is that it would very significantly reduce the chances of success, and none of us can take that risk," he said.

See also:

20 Feb 02 | Northern Ireland
Omagh relatives demand new officer
14 Feb 02 | Northern Ireland
Omagh families welcome 'new start'
06 Feb 02 | Northern Ireland
Resolution of Omagh row 'agreed'
05 Feb 02 | Northern Ireland
Marathon talks on Omagh investigation
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