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Thursday, August 20, 1998 Published at 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK


Candlelight vigil for bomb victims

Demonstrating against bombers in their midst

Hundreds of people in Ireland have held a silent vigil to protest against suspected bombers in their midst.

The vigil took place in Blackrock, the hometown of Michael McKevitt, who has been strongly linked in the media to the Real IRA, which planted the Omagh bomb.


The BBC's Bernadette Kehoe: "Vigil was a gesture of solidarity with victims"
Demonstrators lit candles and stood in silence on Wednesday night as a show of solidarity with the victims of the atrocity which left 28 dead and more than 200 injured.

There had been plans to march to the home of Mr McKevitt, 48, and his partner Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, sister of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands.


[ image: Sands-McKevitt ''worried sick'' about family]
Sands-McKevitt ''worried sick'' about family
Ms Sands-McKevitt fronts the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, which the RUC says its the Real IRA's political wing.

Bunches of flowers with black ribbons and cards with anti-McKevitt messages attached have appeared outside her shop.

But demonstrators from Blackrock and nearby Dundalk rejected calls for a march saying they did not want to "resort to vigilantism".

The McKevitts have already fled their home over fears for the safety of their family.

Dundalk peace worker Joan Brady said: "There may be undesirables living in the area but there are those of us who would prefer it if they didn't.

"But it would be a bit like vigilantism to go up to somebody's house who has not been proved 100% guilty - yet."

Dundalk and the surrounding area just south of the border has long been favoured as a base by republican paramilitaries.

Some estimate there are 70 active members who have moved to the town to escape arrest in the north.

But Dundalk Urban Council chairman Seamus Byrne is furious his home town has been labelled a "terrorist haven" because "certain people use it as a base".


[ image: Saturday's bomb aftermath]
Saturday's bomb aftermath
"They're not coming here out of a love for the town," he said. "The vast majority of people in Dundalk abhor violence."

A mass rally and march is also planned in the town centre on Saturday, a week after the bomb.

After media attention focussed on the McKevitts they called Roman Catholic priest Desmond Campbell saying they were afraid for their three children.

Mr McKevitt also told him he had no "hand, act nor part in the Omagh bombing."

But Brendan McGahon, a Fine Gael party representative in the Dail, the Dublin parliament, said he had little sympathy for the couple.

"Michael McKevitt and his lady friend have given numerous interviews and Ms Sands went on a tour of Ireland spreading her doctrine.

"I believe they have visited this horror on themselves and I shed no tears for them."



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