By David Young
DUP, UUP and SDLP councillors have walked out of a council meeting in protest at the Sinn Fein chairman's controversial comments about the Enniskillen bomb.
Members left the meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council in Enniskillen Town Hall on Thursday in response to council chair Stephen McCann's refusal to condemn the 1987 IRA outrage.
In an interview with the Impartial Reporter earlier this month, Mr McCann said the bombing was wrong but declined to condemn it outright.
Eleven people died in the Remembrance Day attack - one of the most notorious attacks of the Troubles. A 12th victim died 13 years later having never woken from a coma.
Asked whether he condemned the bombing, the newspaper quoted Mr McCann as answering: "You see, you can go down this road of condemning this and commending that, and commending this and condemning that. But it was wrong and Sinn Fein came out at the time and said it was wrong. I am happy with that."
During the same interview, he praised former IRA man Seamus McElwaine, who was shot dead by the SAS in 1986, for his contribution to a peaceful future.
Mr McCann was challenged about his remarks at the meeting in Enniskillen. Rival councillors claimed they walked out because he declined to apologise for his comments or facilitate a debate on the issue.
In a statement, DUP councillors said: "Our protest recognises the huge hurt and anger felt by many innocent victims following his comments. We are encouraged that our protest was supported by fellow unionists and other nationalist members.
"We are forever indebted to those men and women from across Northern Ireland who stood against republican terrorism."
SDLP councillor John Coyle branded Mr McCann's remarks "disgusting".
He added: "Sinn Fein talk about respect, equality and integrity. Well, their view of respect, equality and integrity is clearly very different from mine."
UUP councillor Howard Thornton said: "As a result of his refusal to apologise for his comments, we as a group of Ulster Unionist councillors felt we had no other option but to withdraw from tonight's meeting and take no further part in it.
"The opportunity was afforded to councillor McCann to apologise but, maybe as expected, this was not forthcoming."