CAMPAIGNS: LEGAL PR - Victims bring Omagh back into the news

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

happens again.

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

fundraising appeal.

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 - - 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.

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