A man whose son was killed in the Omagh bomb last night spoke of his relief after Derry and Strabane councillors rejected a call for the local authority to voice official concern about the extradition of the man found by a civil court to have coordinated the atrocity.
Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden died along with 28 others including a woman pregnant with twins, nervously watched the council debate the motion brought by independent member Gary Donnelly.
It fell after SDLP, Alliance, DUP and UUP councillors voted against it and Sinn Fein councillors abstained.
In the final tally, 21 voted against the motion with 11 abstentions.
Only six councillors lent their support to Mr Donnelly’s call for the council to voice its opposition to Campbell’s extradition from the Republic to Lithuania, where he is wanted on international weapons trafficking charges.
Mr Gallagher described the motion as “perverse”.
He said: “I will certainly sleep sound after watching the defeat of that perverse motion.
“It was a bittersweet moment for me and I am sure for all the people of Omagh, bitter in that anyone would put the human rights of that man (Liam Campbell) above the people of Omagh after all we have suffered.
“But it was sweet to see how strongly it was rejected.
“Sinn Fein did the right thing in not supporting this motion, and seeing that was such a relief.”
Mr Gallagher was critical of People Before Profit councillor Eamonn McCann and others who had opposed Campbell’s extradition, while stating their abhorrence of the 1998 Real IRA bombing.
But speaking on the motion, Mr McCann said he would support Mr Donnelly “on the same basis as we opposed extradition over the past 50 years”. However, he added: “Not only are we not associating ourselves with the cause of which it is alleged Mr Campbell pursued, we are against the strategy of so-called armed struggle altogether.”
In a similar vein, Aontu councillor Dr Anne McCloskey and independent councillors Sean Carr and Paul Gallagher all said they would support the motion — but stated their opposition to the violence carried out in Omagh on the day of the atrocity.
The DUP’s Graham Warke had tried to get his fellow councillors to agree to let Mr Gallagher address them ahead of the debate, but this was opposed.
However, during the debate Mr Warke read out a statement on behalf of the Omagh families expressing their desire for Derry City and Strabane District Council to support a cross-border public inquiry into the circumstances of the Omagh bomb.
Derry and Strabane was the second council to debate Campbell’s extradition, coming weeks after controversy in Fermanagh and Omagh, where a majority voted in support of Campbell.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood later apologised to the victims’ families and said when the matter came before the full council meeting held last night all of the party’s councillors would withdraw their support.
Mr Gallagher said: “I was totally shocked that Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council put forward motions that aligned them with a man held liable for his part in the Omagh bomb.
“This was the worst atrocity in the Troubles killing 31 people and maiming and injuring over 250 others.
“It was shocking that the two council areas who raised this were the two councils in the north west.”
Mr Gallagher added: “But I am so, so pleased and relieved the councillors in Derry and Strabane sent out the strong message that they will not support a man who is not even in this jurisdiction, he is not in either of these council areas.”