Michael McKevitt was one of four men found liable for the Omagh bombing in a landmark civil trial
Independent Donegal county councillor Micheál Choilm MacGiolla Easbuig has defended comments he made on social media about one of the men accused of being involved in the Omagh bombing.
He was sympathising with the family of the late Michael McKevitt who died last Saturday. McKevitt was regarded as the leader of the terrorist grouping the Real IRA who have been accused of being connected to the atrocity in August, 1998 which killed 29 people and injured some 220 others.
Cllr MacGiolla Easbuig has been criticised on social media for his stance but while he had condemned the bombing, he says he recognises McKevitt as a “great Republican”.
The 71-year-old died on January 2 after being ill with cancer for the past six years.
McKevitt, from Blackrock, Co Louth, was one of four men who in 2009 were found liable for the bombing in a landmark civil trial taken by the relatives of the victims. He always denied any involvement.
In 2003 he was jailed for 20 years after he became the first person in the history of the State to be convicted of the new offence of directing terrorism. He was also convicted of membership of the Real IRA, a proscribed organisation.
In a Facebook post, Cllr Mac Giolla Easbuig said as an independent Republican councillor, he wished to express his condolences to Mr McKevitt's family.
“There will be much said about the man in the coming days, but I have no hesitation saying he was a great Republican of the modern era. The last portion of his life was spent in prison for directing 'terrorism. While there he developed the cancer that would ultimately lead to his death,” he said.
The councillor claimed McKevitt's conviction hinged on the evidence of an FBI agent sent to Ireland to ingratiate himself with McKevitt for ulterior reasons.
“As Republicans, we all know the corruption of the legal systems north and south in order to secure political convictions. By far the worst example of corruption is the evidence of a self-motivated informant.
“Michael McKevitt was subjected to a political show-trial by the State. Because of his alleged involvement in the Omagh bomb, a horrendous and tragic event that caused the death of tens of innocent civilians, he had few friends or allies to support him.”
Cllr Micheál Choilm Mac Giolla Easbuig has faced a backlash on social media about the comments
Cllr Mac Giolla Easbuig accused what he called "the mainstream media" of reporting on McKevitt's trial "in sensationalistic tones" in order to increase paper sales.
“A lack of public scrutiny ensured the trial outcome was a foregone conclusion.“
There has been a backlash on social media to the comments but the councillor said while Omagh was wrong and should not have happened, McKevitt was still a Republican who he could look up to. He pointed out he had never been convicted of anything to do with Omagh.
One person who responded, Gerard Jazza McLaughin outlined how it made him feel.
“As somebody who lost a cousin and a friend in Omagh and who had a brother and another friend severely injured, I have to say, this post has made me sick to the pit of my stomach. That an elected representative from our own county could come out in such support of a man found liable for the bombing is extraordinary and downright shameful.
“You can hide behind the argument that the Brits were to blame all you like but the Brits didn’t plant the bomb. McKevitt and your ‘republican’ friends planted that bomb and killed my eight-year-old cousin and 12-year-old friend along with 27 others and unborn twins.
“Your support for this man is yet another punch in the stomach for families who have suffered so much, without any sort of justice for the last 23 years. Shame on you sir, shame on you,” he said.