Client: Families of Omagh bomb victims
PR Team: H2 O Henry Hepworth and volunteers
Campaign: Omagh Victims Legal Action
Timescale: Ongoing from October 2000
Budget: Included in legal costs
On 15 August 1998, the Real IRA murdered 29 people and injured countless
others by exploding a 400lb bomb in Omagh.
Almost three years later, the police believe they know the identities of
those who committed this atrocity, but do not have sufficient evidence
to meet the high standards of proof required by the criminal courts.
Last October, relatives of those killed by the bomb approached H20 Henry
Hepworth solicitors, to raise a civil action for damages against the
suspects, four of whom were named in a BBC Panorama programme last
To find some sort of justice for the victims' relatives, by raising over
pounds 1m by August, to fund a civil suit against the suspected bombers.
In addition, the campaign aims to thwart the global activities of the
Real IRA and ensure that the devastation of the like of Omagh never
Strategy and Plan
More than two years after the event, the Omagh bombing was old news, so
to bring the outrage back into public consciousness, the PR team
instigated a media campaign. This was aided by the Daily Mail, which
last October agreed to back a funding drive to cover the families' legal
To keep the campaign non-political, non-religious and untainted by
accusations of revenge, support was gained across the political
spectrum. This included a string of former Northern Ireland secretaries,
most notably Peter Mandelson, who donated pounds 10,000 to the
A key element of the campaign was to strangle the Real IRA's global
resources, so the PR team lobbied the decision makers in Ireland, the UK
and the US, to get the organisation banned by the US government. This
included letters to the US ambassador in Dublin and a tour of government
bodies in Washington by Michael Gallagher, whose son Adrian was killed
in the bombing.
To bring home the wider picture of terrorism as a global threat, the
campaign staged a number of peaceful protests, including one outside a
pub in London, where members of the Real IRA were believed to be meeting
members of the Turkish terrorist group DHKC.
On 14 March, the Omagh Victims Legal Action was officially launched at
the House of Commons. This promoted the donation's website -
www.omaghlegalaction.com - and outlined the issue by bringing a civil
action. The Omagh families felt they were performing a public duty for
every UK citizen.
Measurement and Evaluation
The campaign has gained front page coverage in all the national
newspapers in the UK and Ireland and widespread broadcast interest,
ranging from Sky News and CNN to the BBC and ITN. Details of funds
raised are currently unavailable.
This campaign has placed the events of Omagh back into the hearts and
minds of the public. In addition, as a direct result of the campaigners'
actions, the US administration is on course to ban the Real IRA from
fundraising in America.
Seeking to sue terrorists in a civil court is unprecedented in this
country, and there are no guaranteed outcomes. But by integrating the
legal, investigative, fundraising and PR efforts, the campaign team has
leveraged fantastic awareness and widespread support.