Omagh relative confirms talks on RIRA violence

 

The father of a 12-year-old schoolboy killed in the Omagh bombing has confirmed he had held face-to-face talks with the political wing of the Real IRA.

Victor Barker, whose son James was one of 29 people killed by the Real IRA inAugust 1998, said he met members of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement inSwords, Co Dublin, last December in a bid to persuade them to abandon violence.

After the leaking of information about the secret meeting, Mr Barker said hedid not regret the talks but understood the surprise of some families of Omaghvictims on learning about the discussions.

He added: "I would meet them again.

"By meeting the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, I was not in any waylegitimising the Real IRA's campaign.

"I went there to help them understand what they did to James and othervictims and to urge them to choose a path away from violence.

"We gave an undertaking on both sides that the meeting would remainconfidential, although I am not naive enough to think that it would never, evercome to light.

"Everybody in situations like Omagh reacts in different ways and choosestheir own way of dealing with the grief.

"This is a path that I chose to pursue."Mr Barker told PA news that the meeting was initiated by him.

It occurred on the same day as he met the Taoiseach Mr Ahern inDublin.

He said that the 32 County Sovereignty Movement had not pursued furtherdialogue with him.

"I gave then the opportunity to continue the discussion but that has neverbeen pursued," he said.Mr Barker is not the only relative of a troubles victim who has met peoplelinked to the killing of their loved one.

Former Senator Gordon Wilson, whose 22-year-old daughter, Marie, was oneof 11 people killed during the Enniskillen Remembrance Sunday massacre by theIRA in 1987, met two representatives of the Provisionals at a secret venue sixyears later to dissuade the organisation from its armed struggle.

The Omagh bombing was the largest single atrocity in the history of the North, killing 29 people, including a mother of unborn twins.

Only one person has been convicted of the atrocity.

Dundalk publican Colm Murphy received a 14 years sentence in January 2002 fromthe Special Criminal Court in Dublin for plotting the car bomb attack.

Last month, a 34-year-old unemployed electrician from South Armagh became thefirst person in the North to face charges connected to the attack.

Sean Gerard Hoey appeared in Craigavon Magistrates Court on 15 terroristoffences, including one relating to the Omagh bomb.

In August, Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt was convicted at the SpecialCriminal Court in Dublin of directing terrorism, but faced no direct chargesrelating to Omagh.

The British government also announced in August that it was contributing Stg £800,000towards a civil action taken by some of the victims' families against fivepeople they believed were involved in the attack.

Writs were served last year on Michael McKevitt, Colm Murphy, Liam Campbell,Seamus McKenna and Seamus Daly.

PA