Sinn Fein was split last night as Fermanagh and Omagh District Council rejected a motion opposing the extradition of a dissident republican held liable for the Omagh bombing.
iam Campbell, from Dundalk, is wanted in Lithuania over allegations he was part of an operation to buy guns and bombs for the Real IRA.
Last month, Dublin’s High Court ordered Campbell’s extradition to the Baltic state.
Campbell was found liable in a civil court for the Omagh bomb in August 1998, which claimed the lives of 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, and injured 220 others.
At a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee earlier this month, independent councillor Bernice Swift sought support in opposing Campbell’s extradition to Lithuania, citing human rights concerns.
The committee voted to oppose the extradition with the support of SDLP, Sinn Fein and others while DUP and Ulster Unionist councillors voted against.
Members also agreed to write to Taoiseach Micheal Martin to voice the council’s opposition.
The move provoked strong criticism, particularly of the SDLP. Leader Colum Eastwood MP later said his party members had been wrong to back the motion and would reverse the decision when it came before the full council for ratification last night.
He also offered to meet with the Omagh families to express “profound regret”. The move had left victims of the atrocity “appalled and retraumatised”.
Last night at the reconvened council meeting, members voted to stop the council’s support for Campbell by 29 votes to six with one abstention.
While the SDLP changed its position to vote against the motion, four Sinn Fein members continued to support Campbell.
The UUP had tabled a counter motion expressing solidarity with the victims of the bomb by writing to Mr Martin and urging him to “speedily resolve” Campbell’s extradition process.
Proposing the motion, UUP councillor Victor Warrington said he hoped the council could now “consign this sorry episode in local government to the dustbin of history where it so rightfully belongs”.
“This council should defend the innocent men, women, children and unborn who were cut down as they went about their daily lives and not the rights of an individual whose only link to this district is that he was civilly liable for blowing significant parts of it to hell and back, killing and maiming citizens and then fleeing, leaving devastation and broken families in his wake,” Mr Warrington said.
DUP councillor Errol Thompson added: “Over the last couple of weeks our council has been brought into the gutter and that’s the view of many of our constituents.”
Ms Swift accused Mr Warrington of “showing complete scant regard” for the Omagh bomb victims and said his motion fell “very short” in terms of support and solidarity.
Sinn Fein tabled an amendment highlighting its concerns about the human rights of Campbell and its resolve to see those responsible for the bombing being held accountable, but this was one of four amendments ruled inadmissible.
Last week DUP members of the council lodged a complaint to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards against councillor Swift and Sinn Fein’s council chairman Stephen McCann.
They argued that the proposal raised by Ms Swift was not within the council’s remit and should not have been accepted by Mr McCann as reasonable business for the council to conduct.
Claire Monteith, whose 16-year-old brother Alan Radford was killed in the blast, has also reported the two councillors to the local government ombudsman.