Omagh bombing widower lambasts parties for West Tyrone by-election snub
A man who lost his wife in the Omagh bombing has launched a scathing attack on some of Northern Ireland's political leaders after they "ignored" his calls for them to stand aside and let him run in the West Tyrone by-election.
Nominations for the May 3 poll open today, but Kevin Skelton said there was now no point in him contesting the poll.
Mr Skelton, whose daughter Shauna was also badly injured in the 1998 atrocity that claimed the life of his wife Mena, said he will instead focus on an Assembly seat.
He had written to the leaders of four of the five main parties asking them to stand aside and allow him to run as a unity candidate.
Mr Skelton said he had wanted to bring "the voice of Northern Ireland Troubles victims to the heart of Westminster".
But he was disappointed to receive just two responses, adding that it was a "sad reflection" of politics.
"I sent four letters out," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"I sent them to Naomi Long, Colum Eastwood, Arlene Foster and Robin Swann.
"The Alliance Party responded to me, saying that they weren't going to step aside and let me run.
"The Ulster Unionists also responded; they seemed favourable to the notion.
"The SDLP and the DUP didn't even have the manners to respond to my correspondence on the matter. I got absolutely nothing from them.
"I didn't contact Sinn Fein.
"It just shows you what they think. I feel that they don't care.
"I feel that they are power greedy and looking to line their own pockets and they don't care about anybody else. It's very hurtful.
"How is the victims' issue going to be dealt with when they can't even write a couple of words back to them?
"It makes me feel very sick. At the end of the day it's tribal politics they want, either orange or green. They don't want anyone in who would represent everyone."
The West Tyrone seat has been vacant since Barry McElduff resigned in January.
He stepped down over a video he posted on social media in which he posed with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre.
Sinn Fein has selected Carrickmore solicitor Orfhlaith Begley to contest the by-election. The party is defending a 10,000-plus majority from the 2017 Westminster vote in the overwhelmingly nationalist constituency.
Mr Skelton said that he would now shift his focus to winning an Assembly seat and will have a "team ready to go at a moment's notice".
"There is no sense in me putting in my nomination today," he said.
"It's a waste of time. I'm not going to make an eejit of myself running when all the rest of them are running.
"Even if I had got a straight fight with Sinn Fein, they would have had to fight for the seat. They might have won it, but they would have had to fight for it. And now it's being handed to them on a plate.
"I am going to put my name in for the next Assembly election. It's payback time. We will see then how many votes the SDLP and DUP get.
"If I'm above the ground when the Assembly election is called, I am running, without a doubt.
"If there is an election called tomorrow I would have a team ready to hit the ground running. I am willing to put all in and win the seat.
"I think I would have a good shot at it as an independent because I would get second preference votes from the unionist community, and maybe even some first preference votes.
"But I won't be waiting on anyone for the Assembly election. I'm just going to forge on ahead."