The father of a child killed in the Real IRA Omagh bomb of 1998 has hit out at Channel 4 for inviting Gerry Adams to present a religious programme on the channel.
Victor Barker, whose son James was 12 when he was killed, has written to Channel 4 asking for the opportunity to go head-to-head with Mr Adams on the programme.
The west Belfast MP is set to present an episode about Christ as part of a new factual series called The Bible: A History, to be screened in February.
Mr Barker has accused Mr Adams of refusing to help the fight for justice of the families of the 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins who were killed in the bomb, the single biggest loss of life in an atrocity in the Troubles.
Mr Barker said Channel 4 had not taken into account the Sinn Fein president’s alleged refusal to help the campaign to jail the Real IRA killers. Barker said the broadcaster had been more interested in creating “shock value”.
“After the Omagh atrocity people like Gerry Adams who came from the same tradition as those in the Real IRA leadership had a chance to atone for the past. We asked him to help us bring the Real IRA bomb plotters to justice, but he did not even want to know.
“He even denied he knew men like Michael McKevitt, the Real IRA's founder, even though until
1997 he [McKevitt] was the Provisional IRA's quarter master.
“If he [Adams] wanted to demonstrate a sense of Christian forgiveness, he could have stood by the Omagh families when they asked for his full co-operation in catching the killers as part of our campaign for justice.”
In a letter to Ralph Lee, the head of specialist factual programming at Channel 4, Mr Barker said: “May I suggest that you ask him [Adams] to talk to me on your programme, and ask him why, with all the information he has at his fingertips, he would not even acknowledge that he knew [the IRA's] quartermaster Michael McKevitt and his colleagues in the Real IRA.” In his email response to Barker, Mr Lee said: “Please be assured that this decision has not been taken lightly or without consideration for the impact that it will have on victims of IRA violence.
“Our hope in commissioning the programme, however, is that it can contribute in some small way to the process of reconciliation in the community.”
Earlier this year the families of many of the victims won a legal fight to have Michael McKevitt, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly held liable for the murders.
They also won damages of £1.6m.