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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Omagh relatives welcome legal aid
Scene of Omagh bombing
Twenty-nine people died in Omagh bombing in August 1998
Relatives of the Omagh bomb victims have welcomed government help to fund a legal action against those they suspect of the atrocity.

The families said the British Government decision to contribute 800,000 towards the 1.5m needed to launch a civil action was "wonderful news".

Twenty-nine people died in August 1998 in the Real IRA bombing of the County Tyrone town, in what was the worst single atrocity in 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

Victor Barker, who lost his 12-year-old son James in the bombing, said it was wonderful news if the government was prepared to fund the case "all the way to court".

"It is very welcome that the government has now seen fit to give the same assistance to the relatives as they are giving to defendants in legal aid cases.

"This particular case is of public significance. It is the public saying to people engaged in terrorism that they no longer want that path to be followed.

"This is going to be an enormous boost. We had been doing dribs and drabs, and I ran a couple of marathons, but it never raised near what we needed."

'Unbelievable news'

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 responsible to court.

"It's fantastic, unbelievable news. I think it will go a long way towards giving the families justice."

A spokesman for the Omagh Civil Action Group said: "We are very much heartened by the fact that the government sees the need to help us in our unprecedented civil legal action.

"Having come this far we cannot allow the Omagh bombers to get away.

"However, we look forward to discussing how the government intends to deliver this help."

I wish them well in what will still be a number of very difficult months ahead
Ulster Unionist chief whip Roy Beggs

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson, who has campaigned on behalf of the families, also welcomed the decision.

"The government has done right by the Omagh victims' families and I am pleased at this decision.

"It would have been morally indefensible to have extended funding to the defendants, including Michael McKevitt, but not given a penny to the legal fund mounted by the families.

"I would still like to see a criminal prosecution against the Omagh bombers but this civil action, which I support, will not prejudice that eventuality."

Ulster Unionist chief whip Roy Beggs said all the families had ever wanted was justice for their loved ones.

"This additional funding now gives them the chance to achieve it. I wish them well in what will still be a number of very difficult months ahead."


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