In recent months, sharp debate was sparked in Fermanagh and Omagh District Council around controversial court action to extradite the well-known Republican Liam Campbell, to Lithuania. The hearings are being held in the Dublin courts, but such is the controversial nature of the issues involved that there has been widespread awareness north of the border.
Fermanagh and Omagh Councillor, Donal O’Cofaigh, had an opportunity to speak during the key debate in the Council. As always, Donal outlined a principled cross community labour position that challenged repression, paramilitarism and attempts to create sectarian division in the working class. Donal’s brief speech is carried below. Given the limited time available when he spoke at the Council meeting, he could not develop a more detailed view on state repression, sectarian division and paramilitary campaigns. We intend producing a longer article to address those issues.
“A proposal was passed by the July 8th meeting of a committee of Fermanagh-Omagh District Council regarding extradition proceedings against Liam Campbell. This recommended that the Council write to the offices of An Taoiseach and the Department of Justice and Equality in Dublin in support of Liam Campbell and against his extradition to Lithuania on charges relating to the purchase of arms.
“The original proposal has been followed by a related motion from the UUP, and this motion has attracted several amendments which are now both before us at this full council meeting. The media has covered all of these developments and many people in our council area are following our discussions intensely, especially the families of those who died in the Omagh bomb.
“The reason for this is because Liam Campbell’s name will be forever associated with the 1998 Omagh bomb for which he was found liable in a civil court in 2009 although he has not been convicted of any offence connected to the Omagh bomb in a criminal court.
“At this point I must state unequivocally that the Omagh bomb was a crime against ordinary people. I am totally opposed to the activities of all the dissident paramilitary groupings. Their attacks do nothing to forward the interests of anyone, least of all working class people. They seek to take us back to the past. I call on all of the armed republican groupings, and the Loyalist paramilitaries, to call off their campaigns and disband immediately.
“With regards to the issue of the proposed extradition of Liam Campbell I have little doubt that prison conditions in Lithuania are inhuman and breach the human rights of all prison inmates. I would also contend that the Omagh bomb breached the human rights of the victims and survivors.
“I will not vote for any proposal which is one-sided and unbalanced. Genuine cross-community socialist and labour activists have a long history of taking up issues of human rights in a way that unites working class people rather than divides them. If we allow any state to use repressive methods against small and isolated groups without protest it opens the door to the more widespread use of such methods in the future. It is in the interests of socialist and trade union activists to oppose such measures both on humanitarian grounds and in the interests of the working people who will enter into struggles in the future.
“For these reasons I wish to record my opposition to the extradition of Liam Campbell, whilst at the same time condemning absolutely the activities of all armed paramilitary groups.
“With regards to the call for a public enquiry it is my opinion that if one is established it will most likely end just like this debate. It will be divisive, will do nothing to shed light on what happened, will not deliver justice for the victims and survivors, and will not prevent similar atrocities in the future. Some of those who call for an enquiry do so in bad faith in order to deepen the divisions in our community.
“If there is to be an enquiry it must be carried out by genuine cross-community, anti-sectarian activists and international organisations and figures with a reputation for scrupulous fairness. Only then will it be truly independent of both governments and contending sectarian forces. Such an enquiry stands a chance of revealing the truth. Anything less will only cause pain to the families and the entire community.”