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HOEY TRIAL VIDEO LINK; Omagh families to watch start of hearing in town.

Byline: By ALAN ERWIN

THE trial of suspected Omagh bomber Sean Hoey will be shown live on video link in the town today.

Friends and relatives of the 29 people killed in the atrocity will gather to watch the only man ever charged with their murders come before a court.

The decision to screen the Belfast Crown Court trial in the Co Tyrone town was made on Monday after Michael Gallagher, who lost his 21-year-old son Aidan in the 1998 attack, asked judge Justice Weir if a link could be set up.

Mr Gallagher said: "This means that a large number of people in Omagh do not have to travel a long distance each day.

"That would be a terrible burden for them both financial and emotionally.

"This will be the biggest criminal trial ever in Ireland and its proper that as many people as possible should be given the chance to see it."

The families of the Omagh bomb victims are bracing themselves for the harrowing new ordeal.

Hoey, 36, from South Armagh, is charged with the murders of 29 people including a mother of unborn twins.

The case, among the biggest in British and Irish legal history, could last for three months.

Belfast Crown Court will hear weeks of evidence as prosecution lawyers seek the first conviction in Northern Ireland for the dissident republican outrage.

Expert voice analysis and DNA evidence are expected to be central to the case.

For the families of those who died when the 500lb Real IRA car bomb tore through Omagh town centre without warning eight years ago, another painful ordeal lies ahead.

Stanley McCombe, whose wife Ann, 48, was killed, admitted his anticipation was laced with dread.

He said: "It's a day I have been waiting for but yet I'm not looking forward to going near the court.

"It's going to be tough watching somebody who is accused of being one of the instigators. But we have come through hell and high water before and if this is going to give us a little bit of peace then so be it."

The bombing represented the single worst atrocity in 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

With no jury to be sworn in, the case against Hoey, from Molly Road in Jonesborough, will be heard by Mr Justice Reg Weir.

Along with the 29 murders, Hoey faces a total of 61 terrorist and explosive charges - all of which he denies.

The decision to prosecute him followed a marathon police investigation which has been mired in controversy.

A damning report by Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan was heavily critical of the initial police inquiry and the then Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

She found warnings from two informants in the days before Omagh that an attack was planned were not properly followed up.

But amid all the intrigue over agents, the families have demanded justice for their loved ones.

Most of those living in Omagh will find it impossible to make the daily three-hour round trip for a trial.

Mr McCombe insisted everything possible should be done to facilitate the relatives.

He added: "The facilities are there, so why not? Anything else would mean at least a 12-hour day, with us leaving early in the morning."

ulster@mirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

AFTERMATH: Omagh town centre after 1998 blast' ACCUSED Sean Hoey, 36' VICTIM Aidan Gallagher, 21
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 6, 2006
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