Northern Ireland police charged a 43-year-old man on Thursday with the murders of 29 people in the 1998 Omagh bombing, the worst single atrocity of the Troubles — the three decades of sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics.
Northern Ireland detectives investigating the bombing charged the man with murdering those who died in the explosion “and a number of other offenses,” a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) statement said.
British media, including the BBC, named the man as the senior Irish republican figure, Seamus Daly, from Ireland’s Culloville, in County Monaghan.
No one has ever been convicted in a criminal court over the attack in Omagh, a town in County Tyrone, Ireland.
Daly was arrested in Newry on Monday, and charged at Antrim police station late on Thursday.
“He faces 29 murder charges relating to the blast on 15 August 1998, two charges in relation to the Omagh explosion and two charges in relation to an attempted explosion in Lisburn in April 1998 — a total of 33 charges,” the statement said.
He was due to appear at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court early on Thursday.
A Northern Ireland civil judge at Belfast High Court last year ruled that Daly and Colm Murphy could be held responsible for the attack by the Real IRA, a paramilitary splinter group of the now-disbanded Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The Northern Ireland judge said the evidence against the pair, primarily from mobile phone records, was “overwhelming.”
The victims, including a woman pregnant with twins, died when the car bomb exploded on a busy Saturday afternoon.
Michael Gallagher, whose son, Aidan, was killed in the bombing, described the charges as an “important and positive development.”
A first civil ruling in 2009 found Daly, Murphy and two other men — including Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt — liable for the attack and ordered them to pay ￡1.6 million (US$2.7 million) in damages to the victims’ families.
Daly and Murphy successfully overturned the original ruling and were ordered to face a civil retrial, which ruled they can still be held liable.
McKevitt, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Ireland for directing terrorism, failed to overturn the civil ruling against him, along with fellow Irish republican Liam Campbell.
Both are attempting to have their case heard at the European Court of Human Rights.
Former IRA commander Martin McGuinness on Tuesday this week controversially attended a state banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth II in honor of Michael D. Higgins, the first Irish president to visit Britain since the Republic of Ireland became independent in 1922.
The presence of Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister and former IRA commander McGuinness at the banquet was seen as particularly significant, as he had snubbed a banquet in the queen’s honor in Dublin three years ago.
The violence in Northern Ireland was largely ended by the 1998 Good Friday peace accords, which paved the way for a power-sharing government in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but only after an estimated 3,500 people had died.
Political relations between Britain and Ireland have steadily improved since then, building on a shared history, personal connections and strong trade between the two countries.