11/08/2003

Omagh victims should be granted legal aid, says Paisley

The DUP leader, Dr Ian Paisley, has called on the government to provide full legal aid to victims of the Omagh bombing to finance their civil action against those suspected of being responsible for the atrocity.

While welcoming last week's decision by the government to provide £800,000 to the Omagh Victims' Civil Action Group, the North Antrim MP said more was needed.

He added: "I visited the victims of the Omagh tragedy on 11th July and was angered to hear that while they were forced to finance the cost of their civil action terrorists were being fully funded in the form of legal aid. This was a disgraceful situation.

"I very much welcome the decision by the government to go some way to rectify this situation. These people have suffered as a result of the activities of men who are totally committed to terrorist activity. I am calling on the government to ensure that the Omagh families are fully legal aided and that they are in a position to have legal costs met in full."

Mr Paisley also called on the Irish government to support the Omagh families by means of financial aid.

"Those responsible for the bombing of Omagh came from the Republic of Ireland. The Irish government has a responsibility in helping to ensure a successful conclusion to the civil action," he said.

"The decision to grant legal aid to the terrorists involved was quite appalling. In light of recent events it is time the Law Society concluded that granting such aid to terrorists is totally and absolutely despicable."

Dr Paisley's comments follows last week's sentencing of Real IRA chief Michael McKevitt who was jailed for 20 years for directing terrorism in the Irish Republic.

Mr McKevitt is one of the men who have been served writs by solicitors acting on behalf of the Omagh Victims' Civil Action Group who are seeking £10 million in damages.

(MB)

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