Thursday 15 November 2018

Omagh victims angered over Ahern 'help' to Real IRA chief

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern is under fire for forwarding
an email from one of his constituents, the wife of Real IRA
founder Michael McKevitt
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern is under fire for forwarding an email from one of his constituents, the wife of Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern declined to apologise to outraged relatives of the Omagh bombing victims after it was revealed he forwarded an email on behalf of the founder of the Real IRA.

But the minister said that he "regrets" if his representations for Michael McKevitt upset families torn apart by Real IRA violence.

Mr Ahern attempted to play down the substantial embarrassment over his letters on behalf of the convicted terrorist by claiming he was only passing on an email for a constituent.

But the opposition said Mr Ahern's actions were "ill-judged" for a cabinet minister.

Mr Ahern made the inquiries to his predecessor in the Department of Justice on behalf of the head of the dissident group responsible for the 1998 Omagh bombing almost five years ago.

At the time, Mr Ahern was the Communications Minister and he wrote to then Justice Minister Michael McDowell, as well as the Prison Service.

Representatives of the Omagh Victims' Group are said to be angered by Mr Ahern's actions on Mr McKevitt's part.

Disagreement

Mr Ahern was contacted by Mr McKevitt's wife, Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, some time after a disagreement over the terms of a temporary release.

The McKevitt family lives in the same area, at Blackrock, outside Dundalk in Co Louth, as Mr Ahern.

Mr Ahern's spokesman said the minister would dispute it was a representation as he was passing on an email as a constituency TD.

"At no stage did he suggest a course of action be taken or an intervention. He just got the email and forwarded it on. He did not at any stage suggest any preferential treatment. He doesn't make any commentary or recommendation," the spokes-man said.

The minister does not feel he has to apologise but does regret if he upset families of Real IRA victims, the spokesman said: "He has a track record as a Border politician in terms of the peace process.

"If he felt for one moment that he caused any upset to any of the Omagh families, he would obviously regret that."

Fine Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan said Mr Ahern's actions were "ill-judged" as a cabinet minister. He said Mr Ahern was aware of the consequences and made his own judgment on it.

"I believe politicians know what they are doing. They are in a position to make a representation or decline a representation," he said. "His judgment on that would differ from mine."

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