BELFAST (AFP) - A man who had been charged with supplying the booby-trapped car in Northern Ireland’s bloodiest bombing was released from custody after the prosecution dropped its case against him, officials said.
The public prosecution service could not bring a case against Anthony Donegan over the 1998 bombing in the northern Irish town of Omagh that killed 29 people and wounded more than 200 others, the service’s spokesman Raymond Kitson said.
"I can tell you the file was received, considered and the test for prosecution was not met," Kitson said. The police file was considered "very, very carefully," he said.
Prison officials said Donegan was released from custody.
Donegan, 34, was charged with providing property of use to terrorists when he was arrested in February in the Northern Irish border town of Newry, just north of his home in Dundalk, in the Republic of Ireland.
The charge stated that between August 11 and 16, 1998 he supplied to another person the maroon Vauxhall Cavalier car which exploded in Omagh.
The bombing, the worst single attack in the 30 years of Protestant-Catholic violence, was claimed by the Real IRA dissident paramilitary group, which opposes peace moves in Northern Ireland.
It occurred four months after the Good Friday peace accords of April 1998 and created shock around the world.
Victims’ relatives then launched a long campaign to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"This is very disappointing," Michael Gallagher, spokesman for the families of the victims of Omagh, said after the case against Donegan was dropped.
"It is totally unbelievable that we are coming up to the seventh anniversary of the worst atrocity and there is only one person facing charges and no one has been convicted," said Gallagher who lost his son in the atrocity.
On May 26, Sean Gerard Hoey, a 35-year-old electrician was formally charged with murdering 29 people in the Omagh attack. Hoey had been in jail on charges of possessing explosives and alleged membership of the Real IRA.
Only one person, Colm Murphy, has ever been convicted in connection with the Omagh bombing. He was sentenced in Dublin in 2002 to 14 years in prison for conspiring to cause the blast. In January, however, an Irish appeal court ruled the conviction was unsafe, and Murphy was released on bail pending a retrial.
The Omagh atrocity brought widespread international condemnation and the town was visited by British and Irish prime ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern as well as then US president Bill Clinton