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Omagh Cheif Executive John McKinney
tells BBC NI's Wendy Austin: Council responded to bomb in dignified, honourable manner"
 real 28k

BBC NI's Chris Capper:
John McKinney said the suggestions were "unwarranted, unjustified and unfair"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 8 March, 2000, 09:10 GMT
Omagh bereaved 'not let down'
Omagh Memorial Garden
'Consultations still underway on permanent memorial'
The chief executive of Omagh Council has dismissed any suggestion that it has let down those bereaved in the Omagh bombing, as "unwarranted, unjustified and unfair".

John McKinney defended the County Tyrone council's actions at their Tuesday night meeting.

The council's most senior officer said he was responding to recent reports and inquiries from the media.

He said it had been put to him that the council had "somehow let down the bereaved through the management of the Omagh fund, the lack of a memorial to the dead and the failure to expel independent republican councillor Francie Mackey".

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday Mr McKinney said: "I understand (the victims) are hurting and I have very sympathy for them and perhaps from time to time they need to lash out.

"If we are an easy target that's fine but I can stand over the reactions of Omagh District Council.

"The council acted in a very dignified and honourable way and I think members of my staff have performed in a very professional manner."

Questions over sponsored matches

The group which represents those bereaved in the 1998 Real IRA bombing is known to be unhappy that Omagh Town's three football matches against premiership opposition after the bomb may raise less than 15,000 for the Omagh Fund for the victims.

Omagh hosted friendly matches with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool
Omagh hosted friendly matches with Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool
But John McKinney said the games were not organised by the council, which he said had nevertheless brought in an independent accountant to oversee the finances from the matches and who was due to present a report to the council.

"We came in late on, when the football matches were organised. We set in place a mechanism to ensure that there would transparency and accountability.

"We appointed an independent accountant for that reason. He has not issued his report yet.

"When he has I will take it to the council. We will discuss it and I can assure you that whatever action is appropriate will be taken at that time," he said.

The near sell-out "friendly" matches involving Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool were played at Omagh's Julian's Road ground last year.

Approximately 200,000 was raised, but the cost of staging the matches is estimated to be in the region of 180,000.

It is believed that nearly 20,000 was spent on flights, accommodation, meals and hospitality, 70,000 on the provision of additional temporary seating to increase the capacity of Omagh's ground to 7,000 and 50,000 on meeting health and safety requirements.

'Consultation on memorial'

Mr McKinney said consultations were continuing about a fitting memorial and he added it was not for the council to remove a democratically elected member of council.

He said: "Eighteen months after the tragedy we are working towards a memorial. It is a very sensitive issue.

"I chair a group made up of community people, the churches forum, traders and representatives of the bereaved and the injured and we are working our way towards a solution.

"We met on the 22 February and we hope to have a design coming back from an Irish artist in three or four weeks."

Mr McKinney added that it was "not within the council's remit to expel any councillor who was appointed and elected by the people".

Twenty-nine people were killed and more than 200 injured in the 15 August bombing by dissident republicans in Market Street on a busy Saturday afternoon.

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See also:

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Omagh 'friendlies' raise only 15,000
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Who are the 'Real IRA?'
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