The victims of the Omagh bombing have slammed five TDs who have called for the early release of the former Real IRA chief who was found liable for the atrocity.
Former Fianna Fáil minister Éamon Ó Cuív is one of the TDs lobbying for former RIRA leader Michael McKevitt to be released while recovering from recent surgery.
McKevitt was sentenced to 20 years in 2003 for directing terrorism and membership of the Real IRA.
He was also one of four men found liable in a civil action for the 1998 Omagh bombing, the single biggest atrocity of the Troubles, claiming 29 lives.
McKevitt had a cancerous kidney removed in May and his eldest son, Stephen McKevitt, told the Irish Times that Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald had personally intervened to ensure the 65-year-old was returned to prison last week after three months of temporary release.
The fact he had been temporarily released for three months had not been revealed until this week.
Spokesman for the Omagh Support & Self Help Group, Michael Gallagher, said they were “disappointed but not surprised” that the TDs are lobbying for McKevitt’s release.
“The families are angered that McKevitt was permitted three months release which is compounded by the fact that the families were not even informed of his release,” said Mr Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the bombing.
“We feel that there is no respite from the life sentence which terrorists have inflicted on their victims and their families and compassion was not a consideration when they planted bombs with the intention to murder innocent civilians.
“The families are surprised that the TDs have taken such an interest in the humanitarian rights of convicted terrorist McKevitt, who has a long history of terrorist activity and human rights abuses.
“This issue reflects badly on the Irish government as they have repeatedly failed to meet with the Omagh families and acknowledge their obligation to protect life under article 2 of the European convention on human rights and carry out an effective investigation [into the bombing].”
As well as Mr Ó Cuiv, the other independent TDs who lobbied minister Fitzgerald for McKevitt’s release include Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Maureen O’Sullivan and Thomas Pringle.
The News Letter contacted Mr Ó Cuiv but he was unavailable for comment.
The Irish Department of Justice emphasised that there is “no question of the Irish government being against the Omagh families”.
A spokesman added that the prisoner in question is in custody at Portlaoise Prison, serving a sentence for very serious offences and is “liable to serve that sentence unless grounds were to arise which would necessitate otherwise”.
It would not be appropriate to comment on the medical details of a prisoner, he said, but temporary release for any prisoner on medical grounds would only arise where the Irish Prison Service advised that it was “absolutely necessary”.