Council reverses motion opposing extradition of Omagh bomber

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By Q Radio News

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has reversed a motion opposing the extradition of a Dundalk man wanted over allegations he bought weapons for the Real IRA.

In July the council’s policy committee voted to stand against handing over Liam Campbell (58), who’s been held liable for the Omagh bomb, to police in Lithuania.  

Sinn Féin, SDLP and some independent members backed the proposal by independent Bernice Swift on July 8 to write to the Taoiseach voicing concerns sparking anger among relatives of those who died in the 1998 atrocity. 

However it failed to get ratification at a full meeting last night where a counter-motion to end council support of the fugitive was passed instead with 29 representatives in favour, six opposing and one abstention. 

Campbell was found liable for the Omagh bomb in a civil court along with three other men in 2009.

He was arrested in Dundalk in December 2016 on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Lithuanian authorities for allegedly organised smuggling of weapons for the Real IRA between the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007.

The High Court in Dublin ordered Campbell's extradition following a lengthy legal battle, with a judge concluding there was no evidence he would be subjected to inhuman and degrading prison conditions.

The majority of the committee voted to record their opposition to the extradition on the grounds that Campbell's human rights would be breached by poor prison conditions in the Baltic state.

But within hours the SDLP council group leader apologised, saying the party would be opposing it at the full council meeting.

Sinn Féin said it supported the motion on the basis that its "council group was of the view that the human rights concerns raised merited discussion by the full council".

The Ulster Unionist counter-motion voiced solidarity with the Omagh bomb victims, pointing Campbell faces extradition proceedings in the Republic of Ireland on separate terrorism charges.  

As a consequence of further pain and anguish caused victims, the motion called for the process to be expedited.

A total of four amendments were tabled, but three were rejected by Chair Councillor Chris Smyth.

Of these, one by Councillor Eamon Keenan, Independent called for a full enquiry “particularly around the role state agents played in the Omagh bomb.”

Another by Sinn Fein expressed "unequivocal condemnation of the Omagh bomb” stressing those responsible should face due process adding that Campbell “is an Irish citizen and the Taoiseach has a responsibility to protect the rights of Irish citizens.”

Moving the motion councillor Victor Warrington stated: “I hope this will consign this whole sorry episode to the dustbin of history where it belongs.”

Council’s role, he said, was to support the innocent and "not defend the individual found liable, whose only links to this district were blowing parts of it to hell and back.”

Party colleague Councillor Allan Rainey said the Omagh bomb "was one of the worst human rights violations to take place … Shame on those who gloat of such terrorist atrocities and re-traumatise the grieving. Members of this council have condoned and leant their support to that atrocity.”

Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, Independent advised he would abstain from the vote "but not from the politics". 

Campbell’s name, he said: “Will be forever associated with the Omagh bomb. He was found civilly liable, although never convicted criminally… This was a crime against ordinary people. I totally oppose the activities of all dissident paramilitaries.

"Their attacks do nothing to forward the interests of anyone. They seek to take us back to the past. I call on all armed republican groupings and Loyalist paramilitaries, to call off their campaigns and disband immediately.”

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