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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 December, 2004, 17:33 GMT
Omagh defence pulls out of case
Michael McKevitt
Michael McKevitt was jailed for 20 years
Lawyers for the defence in a multi-million pound civil action by families of the Omagh victims have pulled out of the case.

Frank O'Donoghue, the QC representing Michael McKevitt, told the court there was no way the defence could be funded.

Last week, McKevitt - the Real IRA leader - lost a legal aid battle to defend the multi-million pound claim.

Lawyers for the families said that nothing would prevent them pursuing their historic civil action to trial.

McKevitt had been granted the money for the High Court case, but it was set aside after the Legal Services Commission ruled he had not told the truth in his application.

McKevitt, Seamus Daly, Seamus McKenna, Liam Campbell and Colm Murphy are being sued for 14m by the Omagh Victims' Civil Action Group.

Twenty-nine men, women and children died and hundreds were injured when the Real IRA detonated a car bomb in Omagh on 15 August 1998.

'No convictions for murder'

Mr O'Donoghue applied to the court to "come off record", the legal term for ending any connection with a client.

The application was granted. Lawyers for the four other men named as defendants in the case had earlier ended their representation.

Richard Devall from lawyers H2O, who are representing the families, said: "No comment is made concerning the apparent decision of Michael McKevitt's legal representatives to come off the court record.

"Whatever actions the defendants may choose to take, nothing will prevent the families successfully pursuing their historic civil action through to trial."

A legal source said the only possibility of any of the defendants being legally represented was if the judge decided that an issue which might arise during a preliminary hearing - or at the actual trial - would require legal representation in order to ensure a fair trial.

There will be no convictions for murder because it is not a criminal case, but the families could be awarded damages against the men they accuse.

At last week's hearing, Mr Justice Girvan said the decision to withhold the estimated 1m for McKevitt's defence was based on good reasons and was not wrong in law.

In August 2003, McKevitt, 54, was jailed for 20 years in the Republic of Ireland after being found guilty of directing terrorism and membership of an illegal organisation.


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