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SDLP councillors ‘wrong’ to back motion to oppose Omagh bomb suspect extradition

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the decision caused immense hurt and that his party councillors will reverse their position.

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Fermanagh and Omagh District Council building where councillors voted for a motion opposing the extradition of Liam Campbell. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council building where councillors voted for a motion opposing the extradition of Liam Campbell. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council building where councillors voted for a motion opposing the extradition of Liam Campbell. (Liam McBurney/PA)

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said it was wrong of his party colleagues to back a motion to oppose the extradition to Lithuania of a man found liable for the Omagh bomb.

The motion at Fermanagh and Omagh Council to oppose the extradition of Liam Campbell from the Republic of Ireland to Lithuania where he is wanted on international weapons trafficking charges was proposed by independent councillor Bernice Swift.

It passed with the support of the SDLP, Sinn Fein and some independent councillors.

No one has ever been convicted of the dissident republican bomb attack in Omagh in 1998 which 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins.

Following a landmark civil action in 2009, Campbell and Michael McKevitt were found liable for the bombing.

Mr Eastwood said the decision by SDLP councillors to back the motion was wrong, had caused immense hurt and said they will reverse their position when the motion comes before the full council.

“The party will also offer to meet with the Omagh families to express our profound regret,” he tweeted.

SDLP Fermanagh and Omagh Council Group Leader Mary Garrity issued an apology.

“I acknowledge the pain and hurt the decision has caused this morning, particularly to the Omagh bomb families and I want to apologise unreservedly,” she said.

“When the matter comes before the full council for ratification, SDLP councillors will oppose the motion.

“The SDLP has opposed violence and the perpetrators of violence for 50 years, it was never our intention to cause additional hurt to victims and as a council group, we regret that.”

The South East Fermanagh Foundation (Seff) victims group said they have been inundated with angry phone calls overnight about the council motion.

Seff’s director of services Kenny Donaldson described the motion being passed by a council area which includes Omagh as “absolutely scandalous”.

“Anger, shock, and feelings of bewilderment and betrayal have been expressed to us by victims and survivors of the bomb from across the community,” he said.

“There are questions that need answering, the SDLP in particular but not exclusively need to explain their support for the motion and why they felt it appropriate or necessary to support the interests of a commander of death of the very citizens and community to which they owe their positions as councillors.

“Seff represents a number of the bereaved and injured and their message as relayed through us is simple; you who promoted and also endorsed last night’s motion have betrayed us and you are walking on the graves of our loved ones.”

PA