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Real IRA leaders must pay Omagh victims £1.5m

Two leaders of the Real IRA yesterday failed in their legal attempt to overturn a court order to pay more than £1.5 million for their part in the 1998 Omagh bombing which killed 29 people.

Two other dissident republicans face retrials in the action, which has delivered a landmark decision as the first case in which victims of a terrorist organisation successfully hit back financially at its members.

In a civil case, the four republicans were ordered to pay compensation of £1.6m to a number of families bereaved by the Omagh bomb. The judges turned down a plea from the victims for increased compensation.

The two republicans who lost their appeal yesterday are Michael McKevitt, the one-time chief of staff of the Real IRA, and Liam Campbell, who a judge ruled was part of the organisation's army council at the time of the Omagh attack.

McKevitt is currently serving a lengthy sentence in the Irish Republic while Campbell is resisting attempts by Lithuania to extradite him on arms-smuggling charges.

The Irish authorities are also pursuing Campbell for more than €800,000 (£719,000) which he is said to have amassed through illegal activities. It remains unclear what assets McKevitt and Campbell possess and what can be extracted from them.

Nobody has yet been convicted of the 29 Omagh murders, but a number of those involved have been jailed on other charges. Following the collapse of a prosecution several years ago, police in Belfast said it was highly unlikely that convictions for murder could be achieved.

Following yesterday's ruling, Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed, said his campaign would go on. Some of the families continue to press for an independent cross-border inquiry.

Mr Gallagher said: "We are disappointed – we have to accept the ruling of the court, which we do, but we are disappointed. It has been a long struggle for the families, almost 10 years, it looks like this work will continue for a number of years forward."

The civil action was funded mainly by the Government, and other donors.