Belfast Telegraph

Omagh widower's anger as blogger Jude Collins signs letter to Varadkar

By Gillian Halliday

A man who lost his wife in the 1998 Omagh bombing has urged Leo Varadkar to bin a letter signed by 1,000 nationalists because one of them is Jude Collins.

Kevin Skelton said that although he was against Brexit, the fact that the controversial media commentator is one of the signatories means he himself cannot support it.

The letter, published yesterday, urges Mr Varadkar as Taoiseach to defend the EU rights of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland and in the Republic amid the ongoing Brexit negotiations and the Stormont political crisis.

In August Mr Skelton condemned Mr Collins for publishing a blog post on the 20th anniversary of the Real IRA atrocity in which he said those responsible did not set out to deliberately kill innocent civilians.

Mr Skelton's wife Philomena was one of 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, to die in the terrorist explosion on August 15, 1998.

The blog post, which claimed that the Real IRA "didn't deliberately set out set out to slaughter the good and defenceless people they did", resulted in Mr Collins (right) being described as "beneath contempt".

At the time Mr Skelton urged the BBC to ban the commentator, who is a regular freelance contributor on the broadcaster's media platforms. Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, the widower said that in light of the blog post, Mr Collins' name should not be one of the 1,000 listed in the letter.

"I don't think he should be on it. Plain and simple. People like that only use their name to stir up trouble," he said.

"I'm against Brexit, always have been, it's an issue that affects us all regardless of politics, but people like that only represent their own demented outlook on life. After what he said on August 15, he doesn't care about anyone else.

"If he had any respect for those who died that day, he would have apologised, but he hasn't."

He urged Mr Varadkar to "bin" the physical copy of the letter, which is understood to have been sent to him last Friday.

"At the very least he should score out Collins' name," added Mr Skelton.

He said it was a position he had to take, even though it went against his own anti-Brexit position.

"Deal or no deal, we're going to be the hardest hit. I'm in favour of staying in the EU, but I couldn't sign it (the letter).

"I can never forgive him for what he said on August 15. I don't have any belief in anything he's attached himself to. I don't mind people liking the letter. I just myself couldn't have my name attached to it.

"It still hurts what he said. He's destroyed (something that) good, ordinary people have attached themselves to."

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