Blogger Jude Collins rapped for Omagh 'victims weren't murdered' claim
Media commentator Jude Collins has been slammed as "beneath contempt" after claiming the victims of the Omagh bomb were not murdered.
Mr Collins made the comments on his blog on the 20th anniversary of the atrocity which claimed the lives of 29 people including a mother pregnant with twins.
Mr Collins posted: "The victims of Omagh - my home town - are often spoken of as being murdered.
"There were events that occurred during the Troubles that were indeed murder - that is, the killers set out to and succeeded in killing innocent people.
"If we consider the pattern of events for some months before Omagh, the signs are that it wasn't murder: the Real IRA didn't set out to deliberately slaughter the good and defenceless people they did.
"Earlier in August 1998, the Real IRA bombed Banbridge, where they caused extensive damage and injured quite a few people, but killed no one. How could that be? Because they phoned a warning in advance. Their target was commercial, not human. In Omagh a few weeks later, they also phoned an advance warning. But because, we are told, they misnamed the streets, police shepherded people into the epicentre of the blast, not away from it. So the Real IRA appear to have made the basic mistake of not knowing the street names of the town they were bombing...
"The bereaved of Omagh have never been short of sympathy.
"But they have been starved of truth. And although it's an academic point, their loved ones were slaughtered but not murdered."
In 2016 Mr Collins compared the Boys' Brigade to children taking part in dissident republican marches in Lurgan.
Omagh Ulster Unionist councillor Chris Smyth said: "That in itself should have ended his credibility. Today he has surpassed himself with absolutely despicable comments regarding the Omagh bomb.
"This is a defence even the parents of the members of the Real IRA gang that bombed Omagh would struggle to sustain. The facts are as follows. They assembled a bomb. They drove it for miles passing through villages and traffic until they arrived at a market town on a Saturday afternoon.
"They telephoned a warning giving the wrong location.
"As a result, people were funnelled down Omagh High Street into the path of the bomb and 29 innocent people lost their lives along with unborn twins.
"Terrorist bombs are inherently unstable. The Troubles are littered with instances of IRA bombs going off prematurely."
Mr Smyth said the Real IRA gang that bombed Omagh "were well aware of the potential consequences".
"If you build a bomb, transport it to a town and abandon it on a busy shopping street, and it detonates creating multiple innocent victims, then the only word for that is murder," he said.
"Jude Collins's comments in seeking to minimise the enormity of the horror visited on Omagh are beneath contempt."
Mr Collins has not yet responded to a request for comment.