Omagh families win Supreme Court appeal

The Supreme Court has ruled that the families and victims of the 1998 Omagh bombing are entitled to the transcripts and books of evidence used in the trials of five men at the Special Criminal Court as part of a civil case being brought against the five in the North.

Today the Supreme Court ruled, in an appeal brought against last month's High Court judgment that the Omagh victims were entitled to certain, but not all, of the documentation they were seeking as part of a civil action for damages against, are entitled to all the documentation they were looking for.

The families had argued that the documents are an important part of their damages action due to begin in the North next Monday, April 7.

In his judgment the Chief Justice Mr John Murray, sitting with Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman and Mr Justice Hugh Geoghegan, said that the Court was satisfied that there was "nothing that prevents" both the transcripts and the books of evidence from being furnished to the plaintiffs.

The Chief Justice added that the court would give the reasons for its decision at a later date.

The families had sought a declaration from the High Court in Dublin that there is no impediment in Irish law that preventing the five from furnishing the books of evidence and the transcripts of their trials at the Special Criminal Court.

All five men had opposed the application on grounds including that there was an impediment in law that prevented them from handing over the documentation and that they could be in contempt of court by doing so.

The five men against whom discovery is being sought include Michael McKevitt, Beech Park, Blackrock, Co Louth, who is serving a 20-year sentence for directing terrorist activities for the Real IRA, Seamus Daly, from Culloville, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, who was sentenced to three years after being found guilty of membership of an illegal organisation and Liam Campbell, from Upper Faughart, Dundalk, who was jailed for membership of an illegal organisation.

The fourth man is Seamus McKenna, formerly of Silverbridge, Co Armagh, but with an address at Marian Park, Dundalk, who was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for unlawful possession of explosives.

McKenna, Daly and Campbell have all completed their sentences. The Supreme Court has reserved judgment on Michael McKevitt's appeal against his conviction.

The families are also seeking certain materials relating to criminal proceedings taken against Co Armagh native Colm Murphy with an address at Jordan's Corner, Ravensdale, Co Louth, who is facing a re-trial on a conspiracy charge.

Mr Murphy has denied conspiring in Dundalk with another person not before the court to cause an explosion in the State or elsewhere between August 13 and 16, 1998.

In a judgment delivered on March 20 at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Paul Gilligan ruled that there was nothing in the Irish law that prohibits books of evidence served on them during proceedings taken against them at their trials at the Special Criminal Court from being discovered.

The judge however found that there is an impediment under Irish law preventing the defendants from providing the transcripts of their trials at the Special Criminal Court. Both sides had appealed aspects of that judgment to the Supreme Court.

The families were granted an order of discovery by the High Court in the North, subject to any determination by the courts in Dublin.

Counsel for the Omagh families Mr Maurice Collins SC had argued that the North's courts had determined the use of the documentation for the civil case was "amply justifiable", and the material should be before the courts for "the doing of justice".

Counsel for Daly and Murphy, Dr Gerard Hogan SC, argued that there was an "implied undertaking" that an impediment exists in Irish law that prevents the five men from disclosing the material being sought.

Counsel said that transcripts and books of evidence were part of criminal proceedings and that there might be a "cross contamination" if they were allowed to be used in a civil case, and that the disclosure being sought could be prejudicial.

Mr Eanna Mulloy SC for McKevitt Campbell, and McKenna said that none of the five had been before the Special Criminal Court on charges that occurred around the time of the 1998 Omagh bombing.

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