DUBLIN – An Irish Republican Army veteran was charged Thursday with 29 murders over the 1998 car bomb attack on Omagh, the deadliest bombing of the entire Northern Ireland conflict.
Police long have considered Seamus Daly, 43, a prime suspect in the bombing, which was claimed by a breakaway faction called the Real IRA. The blast tore through a crowd of civilians who had been unwittingly evacuated toward the bomb because of confusing telephoned warnings. Most of those killed were children and women, among them a mother 8 months pregnant with twins.
Daly, who lives in the Republic of Ireland, was arrested Monday by Northern Ireland police in the border town of Newry and was scheduled to be arraigned Friday at a court in Dungannon, west of Belfast.
He previously served a 3-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of IRA membership in 2004. Daly also was ruled responsible for the Omagh bombing in a landmark civil lawsuit. A Belfast jury found that he and three other suspected Real IRA commanders should pay families of the victims more than 1.5 million pounds ($2.5 million), but the men have refused.
On Thursday, police also charged Daly with attempting to bomb the Northern Ireland town of Lisburn four months before the Omagh attack. British army experts defused that bomb.
Authorities in both parts of Ireland have failed over the past 16 years to prosecute anyone successfully over the atrocity, which came just months after the triumph of Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace accord. The Real IRA was formed in 1997 in defiance of a decision by the largest anti-British paramilitary faction, the Provisional IRA, to call a cease-fire and pursue peace talks.
Two men previously charged in connection with the blast were acquitted.
A Northern Ireland electrician was charged with making the bomb, but a judge found that the forensic evidence was flawed and police officers offered misleading testimony. Another man was initially convicted in the Republic of Ireland of supplying the phones used by the bombers — including one phone allegedly provided to Daly — but his conviction was quashed on appeal after a court found that police had rewritten some of their notes from the man’s interrogation.