Belfast Telegraph

Daughter of Enniskillen victims slams Owen Carron's cold dismissal of 1987 atrocity - 'he saw lives as expendable, now he cowardly hides behind the law down south'

By Rebecca Black

A woman whose parents were killed in the Enniskillen bomb has criticised former Fermanagh MP Owen Carron's dismissal of the atrocity as "an aspect of the conflict at the time".

Mr Carron (62), who remains on the run in the Irish Republic, also said he did not regret supporting the IRA, although he denied being a member despite being caught with an AK47 assault rifle in 1986.

He additionally detailed how he missed his brother's funeral in Fermanagh four years ago for fear of being arrested if he crossed the border.

Mr Carron made the comments about the Enniskillen bomb in an interview with the Impartial Reporter newspaper that was conducted in the Republic.

He said that the killing of innocent people was "unfortunately an aspect of that conflict during that time". "At that time, I wasn't even in Fermanagh," he added. "I would have had no role in backing that or whatever."

But Margaret Veitch, whose mother and father, Agnes and William Mullan, were among 11 people killed by the bomb, said Mr Carron's words sickened her.

She asked: "If Owen Carron is innocent, why has he remained on the run for almost 20 years? Why has he not sought to clear his name?

"The man was charged with possession of a firearm. He is guilty of a terrorist-related offence in the eyes of the law, but he took advantage of that same weak criminal justice system and ran away, availing of safe haven in the Republic of Ireland.

"My parents and so many other innocents were murdered by PIRA terrorists. Their lives were viewed dispensable by that organisation.

"Adding insult to injury, the UK Government has treated the innocent victims and survivors of terrorism with sheer contempt.

"Why are those who engaged in acts of terror so gutless? Where is their conviction to own and accept the consequences for the actions they committed in their supposed pursuance of freeing Ireland?"

Kenny Donaldson, director of services at the Lisnaskea-based South East Fermanagh Foundation, which helps innocent victims of terrorism, described Mr Carron as an "extremely divisive figure" across the county.

"Many innocent victims and survivors of terrorism view him to be a key figure of the republican movement's terror campaign in these areas," he said.

"They were and remain very hurt by the Republic of Ireland's refusal to extradite Carron, instead choosing to offer him safe haven where he had been able to work as a teacher in County Leitrim, framing the minds of the next generation of our young people."

Mr Carron worked as an election agent for IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in April 1981.

He went on to succeed Sands as MP following his death in the Maze.

He subsequently lost the seat to Ulster Unionist Ken Maginnis in the 1986 General Election.

His interview with the Impartial Reporter is his first major statement in three decades, although he remains active in Sinn Fein and was director of elections for the party in Roscommon-South Leitrim during the 2007 Irish General Election.

Mr Carron spoke of having regrets but said his support for the IRA was not one of them. "I regret that so many people lost their lives," he added. "I regret that the hunger strikers lost their lives. I regret that people on all sides lost their lives.

"Life is sweet and everybody should have the opportunity that I have got to live towards old age.

"No, I wasn't a member of the IRA, no. I supported the right for armed struggle when that was ongoing, but there is no need now for armed struggle because there is another way - a political way."

Mr Carron was charged with firearms offences in 1986 after a gun was found in the car he was travelling in. He was granted bail to contest the Fermanagh-South Tyrone by-election then fled to the Republic of Ireland.

In 1988, he was arrested and held in custody for two-and-a-half years while attempts were made to extradite him. However, the Irish Supreme Court determined that possession of an automatic rifle constituted a political offence, which prohibited his extradition under Irish law.

"Everybody knows what happened and why I am living in the south," he said.

"This is still sub-judice, so I can't say much about it because I am still under that rule, which means because I was charged and because I went to live in the south, because I jumped bail. That is still hanging over me.

"I am not on the run - I am walking about and living here openly. I have not got clearance to go back to Northern Ireland from the British authorities.

"My brother, Seamus, died four years ago and is buried in Enniskillen and I wasn't able to go to his funeral. I feel sad that I can't do that, but I have to be realistic to know that if I get in my car and go down there I'll be arrested. I am not silly."

When asked if he would hand himself into police, Mr Carron replied: "No, why would I do that? I was in the highest court in this land here, the Supreme Court. It freed me and said I could not be returned to Northern Ireland because the offence for which I was requested was a political offence. That's good enough for me."

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