Twenty-nine people died in Omagh bombing in August 1998
The Omagh bomb victims' families are to be provided with £800,000 by the government to help take those they accuse of the atrocity to court.
Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy confirmed on Friday the government has
found a way to help relatives raise the £1.5m needed for a civil action.
It is understood to be the first time the government has helped to fund a civil prosecution and a government spokesman said it was because the situation was "totally exceptional".
Twenty-nine people died in August 1998 in the Real IRA bombing of the County Tyrone town, which was the worst single atrocity in 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.
Mr Murphy said: "I have been working for many months with ministerial colleagues
in the Department for Constitutional Affairs to try to find ways of helping the
Omagh families with the funding of their legal case.
"While I recognise the legal constraints and complexities, I have always
believed that this is an exceptional case and the vast majority of people in
Northern Ireland and beyond want to see the families bring it to court.
"The magnificent scale of the financial donations from the public to date
supports that view."
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Office said: "As far as we're aware it's an unprecedented move.
"The Omagh situation is totally exceptional in every way."
In 2002, solicitors acting on behalf of the Omagh Victims' Civil Action
Group served writs on five people suspected of involvement in the bombing,
seeking £10m in damages.
The legal documents were given to Michael McKevitt, Liam Campbell, and Colm
Murphy in Portlaoise Jail.
Solicitor Jason McCue visited the border town of Dundalk in the Irish Republic
in July 20002 to serve writs on two other people, Seamus Daly and Seamus McKenna.
On Thursday, the Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt, 53, was jailed for 20 years after being found guilty in a landmark trial in the Republic of Ireland of directing terrorism.
Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan, 21, was killed in the atrocity, said the
government's move would help speed up the process of taking those believed to be responsible to
Michael McKevitt was found guilty of directing terrorism
"It is fantastic, unbelievable news. I think it will go a long way towards
giving the families justice," he said.
"It takes an enormous burden off our shoulders. We have had an uphill
struggle and we have raised over £1m through public subscription.
Hopefully it will make things a lot easier for us."
The Northern Ireland Secretary said he had also received an "encouraging"
briefing from PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kincaid about the police
investigation into the Omagh atrocity.
"The investigation is very active with the largest team of detectives working
on any single case in Northern Ireland," Mr Murphy said.
"They are working with all their energy towards a criminal prosecution."
In January 2002, father-of-four Colm Murphy became the only person to be
convicted of plotting the Omagh bombing.
The Special Criminal Court in Dublin sentenced the Dundalk-based builder and
publican to 14 years in jail.