- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2009

BELFAST | Four members of an Irish Republican Army splinter group were found responsible Monday for the worst terrorist attack in Northern Ireland in a landmark civil case brought by the families of the 29 people killed in the Omagh bombing.

The court’s determination that the men and their Real IRA organization were responsible for the 1998 car bombing brings some closure to the families, who have suffered for years as British and Irish authorities tried — and failed — to secure convictions against those suspected of being behind the attack.

The verdict was like “a line drawn in the sand,” said Michael Gallagher, whose son died in the bombing. He called the judgment a “tremendous moral victory for the families.”

It was also a vindication of the families’ novel legal strategy. Inspired in part by the successful U.S. civil action against former U.S. football star O.J. Simpson, which found him responsible for the 1994 killings of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman, the families sought to attack the Real IRA in a civil lawsuit.

Belfast High Court Justice Declan Morgan declared that Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt was liable for the bombing — along with Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy, Seamus Daly and the Real IRA itself.

A fifth man, Seamus McKenna, was cleared of involvement. The case against him had been based on evidence from his estranged wife, whom the judge considered an unreliable witness.

Justice Morgan ordered the four men to pay $2.5 million in damages to 12 relatives who filed the lawsuit.

While the four perpetrators died in the bombings, British authorities suspect many more were involved in planning the attacks, which took 52 lives. But they have struggled to secure convictions. In April, a jury acquitted three men charged in the bombings of the most serious accusations leveled against them.

The Omagh case has been years in the planning, and the yearlong trial cost an estimated $3.2 million — which was partially funded through efforts by the Daily Mail newspaper and former President Bill Clinton, among others.

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