07 December 2005

Go-ahead for Omagh compensation


Twenty-nine people died in the Omagh bombing in August 1998

A £14m civil action by some relatives of Omagh bomb victims has been given the go-ahead by a court.

The Appeal Court in Belfast dismissed an application by two of the defendants to take the case to the House of Lords

Lawyers for Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly wanted to challenge a ruling that London solicitors acting for the families had not breached court rules.

It was argued the firm did not have an NI business address and was merely represented by Belfast solicitors.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr described the point as technical and ruled the court had the discretion to allow the proceedings to go ahead.

In court on Wednesday, a lawyer for Mr Murphy and Mr Daly applied for leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

However, Sir Brian told the lawyer: "You may be aggrieved at the decision we took, but it does not constitute of point of law of general public importance and the application is refused."

Criminal injury claims

Despite the ruling, two outstanding matters have to be resolved before a date can be fixed for the compensation hearing.

Parliament has still to approve an amendment to legislation to permit fresh legal aid to be made available to the families to fund their court claim.

In addition, a decision is still awaited in the appeal by Michael McKevitt, another of the five defendants, against his conviction and 20-year sentence for directing the RIRA.

Last month, it was revealed victims of the Omagh bomb received more than £20m in compensation.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the Compensation Agency had fully resolved 826 of 852 criminal injury claims.

Of the 220 criminal damage claims, 214 have been resolved with approximately £7.5m paid in compensation, Mr Hain added.

Earlier this year, County Armagh man Sean Hoey was the first person charged with murder in relation to the bombing.

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