Omagh relative critical of British government

 

A man whose son was killed in the Omagh bomb atrocity today accused the British government of abandoning relatives of the dead.

Michael Gallager hit out at new Northern Ireland Victim's Minister Angela Smith after she rejected a plea to help move his traumatised daughter closer tothe family home.

He said: "It's time those bereaved in the Troubles realised this Governmentwill do absolutely nothing for them."

Mr Gallagher has been trying to secure the tenancy on a vacant HousingExecutive property for his daughter Sharon, 30, near to where he lives in the CoTyrone town.

She has suffered from severe depression since her brother Aiden, 21, wasmurdered along with 28 others in the Real IRA bomb attack five years ago.

After victims' issues were transferred to her portfolio during the Cabinetreshuffle in June, Mr Gallagher wrote to Ms Smith seeking her help.

Setting out the need for his daughter to receive the full family support sheso badly needs, he urged the minister to use her influence.

But he was shocked by the manner in which Ms Smith turned down his plea.

All houses are allocated on the basis of a point system due to legalrequirements, she told him in a response.

The minister said: "It would be out of the question for me to intervene toask for preferential treatment for victims."

According to Mr Gallagher that is exactly what she should have done.

"The minister is the person sent here from London to fight victims'corner," he said.

"She's supposed to be in there battling for us and yet she has fallen at thefirst hurdle.

"What is she here for if she won't help victims?"

A Northern Ireland Officespokesman insisted it would have been impossible for Ms Smith to do more.

"The minister cannot intervene to ask for preferential treatment forvictims," he said.

"Her role is to ensure that victims are treated fairly and equitably andhave access to the services to which they are entitled."

But even though Ms Smith informed Mr Gallagher that Victims Unit staffcontacted the Housing Executive on his behalf and were told the property hasstill to be allocated, he remained dismissive.

Other relatives of those killed in Omagh were equally horrified by theGovernment response, he added.

"It just shows how indifferent these people really are."

PA