Bush Backs Northern Ireland Terror Victims

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

London (CNSNews.com) - Relatives of the victims of the worst terrorist atrocity in the history of the Northern Irish troubles have gained a powerful friend in their fight for justice: the President of the United States.

President Bush sent a message of support to the families of the Omagh bomb victims, who are trying to raise more than $2 million to fund a civil suit against the men thought to be behind the attack.

The Real IRA bombing of Omagh during a busy Saturday in August 1998 killed 29 people and injured more than 400.

A letter to the families was written on Bush's behalf by the U.S. special adviser to Northern Ireland, Richard Haass.

"We are heartened that people in Northern Ireland are turning away from violence and instead relying on normal political and legal means to resolve issues and disputes," the letter read. "In that vein, we commend your decision to pursue legal civic action."

"The president and I thank you for keeping us informed of your endeavours and wish you well in pursuing justice for the victims of the Omagh tragedy and their families," Haass wrote.

Michael Gallagher, whose son was among those killed in the bombing, welcomed Bush's support and called on the British and Irish governments to step up their own anti-terrorist efforts.

"America will support victims when they stand up to be counted," he said. "We are disappointed in how weak the British and Irish governments have been in the face of terrorism. They haven't taken the same robust stance that the Americans have since Sept. 11."

The civil suit names five suspected Real IRA members, including Michael McKevitt, the alleged leader of the group. McKevitt is currently awaiting trial on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization.

The lawsuit was filed last August, beating a three-year statute of limitations. The Omagh families have until August this year to serve writs on the accused.

Although police and campaigners believe they know the identities of the men behind the attack, only one conspirator has been brought to trial due to what police say is a lack of hard evidence. In January, 49-year-old Colin Murphy was convicted of conspiring to cause an explosion and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The Real IRA is a splinter group that broke from the main or Provisional IRA because of dissent over the ongoing Northern Ireland peace process. Public outrage following the Omagh bomb caused the Real IRA to declare a cease-fire, but they have since resumed violent activities. The group is thought to be behind bombs detonated in London and Birmingham last year.

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