Belfast Telegraph

Widower of Omagh victim calls for BBC boycott if it doesn't drop blogger Jude Collins

By Gillian Halliday

A man whose wife was killed in the Omagh bombing has called on the BBC to "take a stand" and ban a media commentator who claimed victims of the atrocity were not murdered.

Philomena Skelton was one of 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, to die in the Real IRA explosion on August 15, 1998.

Yesterday her widower Kevin said he was backing an online petition calling for the public broadcaster to no longer give airtime to Jude Collins.

It has already been signed by almost 1,500 people in its first 24 hours.

Mr Collins, a regular commentator on Radio Ulster as well as other BBC platforms, was described as "beneath contempt" for saying those responsible did not set out to deliberately kill innocent civilians.

Mr Collins made the claim on his blog on the 20th anniversary of the Omagh massacre on Wednesday.

In it he said the Real IRA "didn't deliberately set out to slaughter the good and defenceless people they did".

The pattern of events before Omagh showed it "wasn't murder", he added, claiming they unfolded because "we are told they (the Real IRA) misnamed the streets" in a warning phone call, saying the group appeared to have made a "basic mistake".

Condemning the comments, Mr Skelton said if the BBC "ducks the issue" he was urging people to boycott it.

"The BBC has to take a stand and ban him completely. It's an insult to any innocent victim of the Troubles across the political divide," he added.

"I would appeal to victims and those affected by terrorism, and any right-thinking people, to consider boycotting the BBC."

He warned that if the BBC continued to feature Mr Collins the organisation would be "damaging" its credibility.

"If they don't take a stance I will not speak to them again," he said.

In response, BBC Northern Ireland said: "Jude Collins' views are not a matter for the BBC except where they relate to, or are included within, our output.

"That isn't the case in this instance."

The BBC declined to answer if it had paid Mr Collins for his appearances.

"It wouldn't be appropriate for us to comment on remuneration received by individual contributors," it said.

"Freelance journalists and others who are invited or commissioned to take part in our programmes are entitled to payment in line with our normal guidelines."

Belfast Telegraph

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