Omagh accused in ‘scapegoat’ claim as case collapses

March 7, 2016

The Jonesborough man cleared of involvement in the Omagh bombing says he has been used as a “scapegoat” and the whole incident has stigmatized him and his family.

Seamus Daly was released from Maghaberry jail on Tuesday where he has spent almost two years on remand, accused of taking part in the Omagh atrocity as well as a Real IRA bomb attack in Lisburn April 1998.

The case against the 45-year-old dramatically collapsed when the prosecution withdrew, citing inconsistencies in the evidence given during preliminary hearings last week by its key witness, Denis O’Connor, a builder from Co. Kilkenny.

The prosecution had claimed that O’Connor received a phone call from Daly on the day of the attack from a phone they believed was used by the bomb team.  However, during a hearing last week O’Connor admitted under questioning from defence barrister Brenda Campbell that the call may have been made a week before the attack.

Daly’s solicitor, Peter Corrigan, said his team had previously questioned the reliability of the witness: “From the commencement of the prosecution we made oral submissions before the resident magistrate stating the inconsistencies and unreliability of Denis O’Connor’s evidence.  These inconsistencies are in the papers since 1999 so we don’t know why he was prosecuted in the first place,” he said.

Reiterating his innocence, Mr Daly added: “I have been blamed over a phone call that I never made and that has been admitted in court.”

He said he now intends to challenge a decision made by the civil court in 2013 that found him and three others liable for the Omagh attack because it also relied on evidence provided by O’Connor.  This case had been taken by relatives of some of those who died in the bombing.

Mr Daly claimed he was being used as a scapegoat as he had been living openly in the north for five years before he was arrested in Newry in 2014 and believes the timing of his arrest was connected to legal action by Omagh relatives who are campaigning for a public inquiry.

He says the whole incident has placed a strain on him and his family: “While it is nothing compared to what the Omagh families have suffered, you are tainted, it has tainted the whole family.  They have made me out to be the big bad wolf,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Release Seamus Daly Campaign, which has been instrumental in campaigning for his freedom, welcomed his release, stating that the case against him “showed a total disregard for his human rights and liberty”.

“The case against Seamus Daly has been flawed from the beginning, the British Government along with the prosecution proceeded against Seamus with no tangible evidence.  For the last 18 years Seamus and his family have been harassed by State agencies and media north and south due to the corruption and ineptitude of the investigators into the Omagh bomb,” the spokesperson said.

Accusing the prosecution of adopting “a tyrannical and farcical approach” to securing a conviction at any cost, the spokesperson added: “The case against Seamus Daly showed a total disregard for his human rights and liberty and we hope that he is the last person to be subjected to internment and false allegations arising out of the Omagh bomb.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all organisations who have helped us highlight Seamus’s case and in particular the many individuals who showed great courage in speaking out on what is deemed a very sensitive subject in our history.

“We would like to pay tribute to Seamus and his family who have been steadfast in their commitment to achieving justice.”

Addressing a Policing Board meeting on Thursday, Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said, from a policing perspective, the collapse of the case is “profoundly disappointing” but the PSNI remains “ready and willing” to pursue new lines of enquiry should new information be forthcoming.  However, he conceded that without such information, the matter is unlikely to advance any further and he cannot envisage any future prosecutions unless new evidence came to light.