23 December 2005

Omagh families angry at release

Daily Ireland

Man being sued by bomb relatives is to be freed for Christmas

Ciarán Barnes

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The father of an Omagh bomb victim has described a decision by the Irish government to free a Real IRA leader on Christmas parole as a “slap in the face”.
Liam Campbell, who is being sued by families who lost loved ones in the bomb, is one of 12 hardline dissident republicans being released from Portlaoise prison for ten days over the festive period.
Joining him will be INLA veteran Dessie O’Hare, the former leader of the INLA in Dublin, and a man described as the second in command of the Munster Real IRA.
The men are expected to be let out on Christmas Eve following a decision taken by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell.
Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was among the 29 killed in the 1998 bombing, described Campbell’s release as “farcical”.
He said: “Decisions like this really hurt the families of those who died. It is a real slap in the face.
“Although the governments seem to have jailed most of the Real IRA leadership its members are still being treated with kid gloves. Real IRA leaders being let out on Christmas parole is just another example of this.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said Christmas parole releases were a matter for the Irish Prison Service.
Although contacted, no one from the Irish Prison Service was available for comment.
Liam Campbell has been in solitary confinement in Portlaoise on a landing shared by criminals since a summer fall-out with Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt.
He refuses to join the E3 landing shared by his Real IRA faction and the hard-line Continuity IRA, the only republican military organisation not to call a ceasefire.
Campbell was jailed for eight years in May 2004 after being found guilty on two counts of being a member of an illegal organisation.
The 43-year-old denied the charges relating to two dates, October 3, 2000 and July 29, 2001. He was arrested in Bettystown, Co Meath, in July 2001 and jailed for five years that October.
The conviction was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal in January 2004 but Campbell was retried on both the original and a subsequent charge the following May.
He was jailed for four years on both charges to run consecutively with the final 18 months suspended. The sentence was backdated to May 1, 2001.
Campbell, from Dundalk, is one of five men being sued in a landmark £10 million (€14 million) civil action by relatives of the Omagh bomb victims.
The others are Michael McKevitt, Seamus Daly, Seamus McKenna and Colm Murphy.

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