There have again been calls for an independent public inquiry into the 1998 Omagh bomb following the collapse of the retrial of Colm Murphy.
On Wednesday, the Dundalk man was cleared over involvement in the tragedy for a second time. He walked free from the Special Criminal Court in Dublin when judges cut the trial short and admitted he had no case to answer.
In August 1998, twenty-nine people died when telephoned warnings failed to clear the area around the ‘Real IRA’ bomb in Omagh town centre.
The bomb detonated in the middle of a street crowded with civilians. It later emerged that state forces on both sides of the border were closely monitoring the movements of the device throughout the day, but failed to prevent the attack.
Campaigner Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden was one of those who died, said he was angered by the second acquittal and renewed calls for a cross-border public inquiry.
“It has been the history of this process that the families have been disappointed time and time again but when it happens it is still hard,” Mr Gallagher said.
As with his original conviction in 2002, the case against Mr Murphy collapsed after interview notes taken by Garda detectives when he was questioned about the Omagh bombing were shown to have been fabricated.
The two senior Gardai who helped secure the conviction against him were previously before the courts on charges of perjury and forgery.
Detective Garda Liam Donnelly and Detective Garda John Fahy were accused of lying under oath and using forged notes in the case against Murphy, but found not guilty. Both Gardai were acquitted of all charges.
Murphy was jailed for 14 years before being cleared on appeal. A retrial was ordered despite the apparent lack of credible evidence against Mr Murphy.
As expected, three senior judges in the non-jury Special Criminal Court were forced to dismiss a conspiracy count against Murphy on the grounds that the Garda notes lacked credibility.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler said the fact that the notes were falsified, combined with the fact there was no explanation given as to why, meant Murphy must be given the benefit of the doubt and set free.
“There is no evidence before the court upon which a jury, properly charged, would convict the accused,” the judge said.
In recent years, investigative journalists have revealed that British military intelligence were tracking the bomb’s movements by satellite as well as monitoring the IRA unit’s cellphones on the day of the attack.
Speculation over the reluctrance of the Dublin and London governments to hold an inquiry has fuelled widespreead speculation that the bomb may have been allowed to cause civilian casualties in order to erode support for the ‘Real IRA’.
Speaking outside the court yesterday, Mr Murphy urged the media: “Find out who was behind it. MI5 agents setting people up.”