DUBLIN (AP) — An Irish Republican Army convict was refused bail Friday at his arraignment on 29 charges of murder for the 1998 car-bombing of Omagh, the deadliest attack of Northern Ireland’s four-decade conflict.
Seamus Daly, 43, did not speak during the court hearing in Dungannon, west of Belfast, amid high police security. Relatives of the dead watched in silence from the gallery.
Detective Inspector John Caldwell testified that the case against Daly includes witness, telephone and forensic evidence. Daly’s defense attorney, Dermot Fee, dismissed the evidence as “nothing new and nothing fresh.”
Caldwell said Daly was charged with mass murder while in police custody Thursday. He said Daly replied “no comment” to the charges, then read a prepared statement denying involvement in the attack by the Real IRA. He also was charged with delivering a second car bomb to another town, Lisburn, in April 2008, but British Army experts defused that device.
The Real IRA, a faction formed in 1997 when most IRA members ceased fire to enable peace talks, car-bombed several Northern Ireland towns in 1998, the year of the Good Friday peace accord. British security forces avoided deaths in the other explosions through swift evacuations.
But in Omagh, they accidentally directed crowds toward the bomb because of misleading phone warnings. The bomb was parked outside the main school-uniform supplier for the surrounding county, so the dead were mostly women shopping with their children for clothes for the new school year. Among the dead were three generations of one family, including a woman pregnant with twins. Also slain in the massacre were Spanish tourists and teenagers on a field trip from the Republic of Ireland.
Fee argued that his client would not jump bail to the republic, where IRA suspects often flee, even though Daly’s home is almost directly on the border. He said Daly had been arrested Monday while escorting his heavily pregnant wife to a hospital in the border town of Newry, and would stay in Northern Ireland so that she could give birth in the coming week.
Caldwell countered that Daly would run if given the chance, and was likely to threaten witnesses, because their identities had been disclosed to him.
Judge Paul Conway ordered Daly jailed pending his next court appearance May 6.
Daly pleaded guilty in 2004 to IRA membership and served three years in prison. In 2009, a Belfast civil jury ruled that Daly and three other alleged Real IRA commanders committed the Omagh attack and ordered them to pay more than $2.5 million to victims. The four refused.
Omagh victims have campaigned for 16 years for someone to be held criminally liable. Prosecutions of two other Real IRA suspects ended in acquittals.
The U.S.-brokered Good Friday pact offered the IRA’s representatives from the Sinn Fein party a role in a future Northern Ireland government in exchange for IRA disarmament. The unity government, with Sinn Fein working alongside former enemies in the British Protestant majority, has operated with surprising stability since 2007.