Comments by nationalist commentator Jude Collins that those killed in the 1998 Omagh bombing were not murdered have been described as “beneath contempt”.
In a blog post published on Wednesday, on the 20th anniversary of the bombing, Mr Collins claimed that as the Real IRA gang “almost certainly did not intend” to kill innocent civilians in Omagh, then the 29 victims’ deaths should not be classed as murder.
However, his comments were slammed by Omagh Ulster Unionist Councillor Chris Smyth.
“In 2016 Jude Collins compared the Boys’ Brigade to children taking part in dissident republican marches in Lurgan. That in itself should have ended his credibility,” said Mr Smyth.
“Today he has surpassed himself with absolutely despicable comments regarding the Omagh bomb.
“The victims of Omagh – my home town – are often spoken of as being murdered. There were events that occurred during the Troubles that were indeed murder – that is, the killers set out to and succeeded in killing innocent people. If we consider the pattern of events for some months before Omagh, the signs are that it wasn’t murder: the Real IRA didn’t set out to deliberately slaughter the good and defenceless people they did.
“This is a defence even the parents of the members of the Real IRA gang that bombed Omagh would struggle to sustain.
“The facts are as follows. They assembled a bomb. They drove it for miles passing through villages and traffic until they arrived at a market town on a Saturday afternoon. They telephoned a warning giving the wrong location. As a result, people were funnelled down Omagh High Street into the path of the bomb and 29 innocent people lost their lives along with unborn twins.
“Terrorist bombs are inherently unstable. The Troubles are littered with instances of IRA bombs going off prematurely. In Coleraine in 1973 six people died because the bomb warnings sent people into the path of a bomb. In Birmingham in 1974, 21 people died because of ineffective warnings. In 1978 the IRA murdered 12 people in a firebomb attack on the La Mon hotel.
“As a result, by August 1998 the gang who bombed Omagh were well aware of the potential risks and consequences of planting a bomb of that size in a built up area. If you build a bomb, transport it to a town and abandon it on a busy shopping street, and it detonates creating multiple innocent victims, then the only word for that is murder. Jude Collins’s comments in seeking to minimise the enormity of the horror visited on Omagh are beneath contempt.”