Belfast Telegraph

Omagh councillors in heated clash over Troubles' victims

By Allan Preston

Councillors in Omagh have clashed over justice for Troubles victims during a highly-charged debate about the 1974 murder of one of their predecessors.

At a meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, a Sinn Fein-sponsored motion called for an investigation into the murder of Independent councillor Patsy Kelly, believed to be carried out by loyalist paramilitaries, to continue.

The Police Ombudsman is still investigating matters surrounding the death of the father-of-five today after the original RUC probe was heavily criticised.

The Sinn Fein motion also claimed the Ombudsman had linked the killing to the so-called Glenanne Gang, which they say was linked to over 100 other murders in the 1970s and had serving members of the UDR, Army and the RUC in its ranks.

Sparks flew in Tuesday's meeting as Sinn Fein council chairman Stephen McCann shut down a UUP amendment which would have broadened the motion to include all unsolved Troubles murders, including those by republican paramilitaries.

UUP councillor Robert Irvine said Sinn Fein were trying to airbrush history and that Mr McCann was guilty of a conflict of interest as he was council chairman and had his name on the original motion.

Sinn Fein maintained it was fair to block the UUP, as their amendment was improperly trying to introduce an entirely new item.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Irvine said: "This is the latest Sinn Fein attempt to exclude a large section of innocent victims from their processes of dealing with the past.

"While we in the Ulster Unionists were content to support the continued investigation into the murder of Councillor Patsy Kelly, Sinn Fein and others would not support the same for other members of our community, like RUC officers, UDR and regular army soldiers, and civilians.

"This further demonstrates the attempts of Sinn Fein to re-write history. Of course the death of Councillor Kelly should be investigated, but so also should the local murders of Robert Jameson, and the five civilian engineers who were working at Brougher mountain.

"Robert Jameson was only 22 years old when he was murdered by the IRA as he got off the bus just outside of Trillick after coming from work in 1974.

"Similarly, John Eakins, William Thomas, Harry Edgar, David Henson and George Beck were all murdered by the IRA outside Trillick in a landmine explosion just three years earlier. They were civilian engineers going to carry out maintenance at the BBC mast at Brougher.

"However, it appears that Sinn Fein want a one-sided investigation process that does not focus on murders by republicans."

A Sinn Fein spokesperson restated yesterday that it was correct to block the UUP amendment.

The statement added: "The UUP motion was also factually inaccurate as it is in denial about the collusion between British state forces with loyalist death squads which claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians.

"The infamous Glenanne Gang, which was made up of UDR soldiers, RUC members and members of the UVF, claimed the lives of over 120 people, including the 34 victims, including an unborn child, of the Dublin Monaghan bombings."

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