The Omagh civil case has been dealt a further blow and it may be too badly damaged to continue. It has emerged that seven more individuals have withdrawn from the case, disheartened and completely disgusted. The latest withdrawal according to the families is due to their lack of confidence in the entire proceedings to date. They feel that the civil case will never uncover the truth of the bombing.
At the outset, most of the families’ were interested in uncovering the facts. However, it now transpires that the motivation of some is now being openly queried. It would appear that some of the families now feel that the civil case was never designed to uncover the truth; on the contrary, it was designed to cover up the truth. According to the Irish News (28/6/07) the family of Esther Gibson “claimed authorities have ‘conspired’ to prevent the action ever getting to court”.
Most of the families’ now acknowledge that the proceedings against the defendants in the case is weak, circumstantial and without substance. As it stands, all the evidence presented so far in the case has all but collapsed. The mobile phone evidence is deeply flawed; the informant David Rupert has withdrawn from the case and it looks as if the previous convictions against the defendants will not carry any weight in the civil case. There is no other evidence available and it seems as if the entire case is on the verge of collapse.
Added to this, the previously held suspicions which some of the families had voiced in the earlier stages of the case that the plaintiffs’ legal team H20 have been prolonging the case to avail of the massive finances available for the case have once again been raised. Some families’ now feel that the British Government’s financing of the case was only a deflection away from its own mishandling of the case.
This latest development has created animosity and tension between many of the families; with some feeling that they were deliberately manipulated and misdirected from the outset. It is now apparent to most of the victims’ families and the wider public that the only way to uncover the truth and expose the perpetrators is to push for an independent public investigation.
Observers argue that the Omagh civil case has been covertly driven by MI5 and the families have been used as the vehicle to direct the blame in one direction only. It has already been pointed out about MI5’s foreknowledge of the bombing a fact which has been completely ignored by the plaintiffs’ legal team.
In April 2006 the SDLP accused the British Government of helping MI5 cover up its “abject failure over the Omagh bomb”.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan said MI5’s failure to give police an agent’s warning in the months prior to the Omagh attack should have drawn some response from the Government, but it didn’t.
PSNI officers told relatives of the Omagh victims earlier in 2006 that David Rupert, an American who infiltrated dissident republican groups, told MI5 and the Irish police in April 1998 that the town of Omagh was a likely bomb target. However, the information was not passed back to the RUC.
PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde told the Omagh families in early 2006 that the police only received the information recently – when a PSNI detective found Rupert’s tip-off in FBI files. That information from Orde to the families was both misleading and incorrect. The “tip-off” to which he referred was contained in documents disclosed to the defence lawyers in the Michael McKevitt case in 2001.
The information was contained in e-mails allegedly sent between Rupert and his MI5 handlers in April 1998. The content of the e-mail couldn’t have been more transparent. E-mail # 104 date 11th April 1998….Rupert to MI5 handler “…this yesterday was a military operation, I was part of it …Derry or Omagh would be 2 suspect viable targets…” Journalist Barry O’Kelly also reported this information in an article in The Sunday Business Post on 10th Feb 2002. The same information also emerged during a disclosure hearing in the Dublin’s Special Criminal Court in October 2002. For Hugh Orde to suggest that the information only emerged in 2006 was disingenuous.
The British state has attempted to advance the civil case in an overt manner and achieve a result by default. The five defendants in the case have had obstacle after obstacle placed in their way to impede them from defending the case in a meaningful way. The evidence against the defendants is almost non-existent and from the outset of the case, the proposed evidence has continually changed. Initially, when the writ was served in 2002 the evidence placed before one of the defendants Michael McKevitt stated that he hadn’t refuted newspaper allegations which accused him of involvement in bombing. However, this evidence was subsequently withdrawn when it emerged that this was inaccurate. In fact, British Irish Rights Watch had lodged a complaint with the U.N. Rapporteur on behalf of Michael and Bernadette McKevitt in relation to the newspapers allegations.
Consequently, the evidence was altered after David Rupert agreed to give evidence in the case. Later, Rupert withdrew from the case for financial reasons and the evidence against McKevitt has been rearranged yet again. The latest evidence presented in the case summary is that of the 2,000 e-mails, which was previously discredited in the McKevitt trial in Dublin in 2003.
Throughout the civil case the British Government has financed the plaintiffs’ while the defendants have been denied legal assistance. In February 2004 the Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer) made an unprecedented legal decision when he directed the Legal Services Commission to make substantial payments to the relatives of the Omagh victims. On the other hand and in spite of the lack of evidence the defendants have been consistently denied the opportunity to defend themselves.
The British Government are attempting to prosecute the defendants using a lower civil standard of proof [on the balance of probability] than would be necessary in criminal proceedings [beyond reasonable doubt]. Under such circumstances and with no defence, the civil case as presently constituted can only return one outcome, which is a sure indication that the motivation is accusatory and not compensatory.
It is also generally accepted that the defendants could not meet the considerable damages, which the families are seeking (£14.0 million). The civil case as presently constituted will not achieve the proper objective and uncover the truth surrounding events in Omagh. Therefore, it would seem that the remaining families are only interested in a misguided retribution under the influence and at the behest of the British state and particularly MI5.