A man who lost his wife in the Omagh bombing has said he would be prepared to stand against Sinn Fein in a battle to take control of the seat vacated by ex-MP Barry McElduff.
Kevin Skelton, whose wife Mena died and whose daughter Shauna was left wounded by the RIRA 1998 atrocity, said he would consider running after the leader of the Ulster Unionists raised the idea of fielding a “non-partisan” victims’ candidate against Sinn Fein.
Details of exactly who may be considered for the role, or how such an arrangement might work, remain unclear.
But Mr Skelton – chairman of the victim support group Families Moving On – said he believes that he could command support from “the victims’ sector for a start,” and from people “right across the political divide”.
He said people are “fed up” of the abstentionist approach of Sinn Fein, which has held the seat easily since 2001.
“I’d love to stand,” he said.
“I want to move forward, not sit and stew the way we’re doing.”
If he succeeded, it would “show backing for a victim of the Troubles, somebody that’d have the respect of both communities; that’d be the most important thing – respect”.
By contrast, Alan McBride, who was also left bereaved by a republican bomb attack, has now said the idea of a shared victims’ candidate may prove “toxic”.
The West Tyrone seat was vacated by Mr McElduff following the controversy around a video of him balancing a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head, published online on the anniversary of the IRA massacre of the same name.
Mr Skelton, now aged 63, has spoken in the past of the travails he has faced following the 1998 Omagh blast.
He had been in the next shop over from his wife when she was killed. He told the Derry Journal in 2015 he turned to drink in the aftermath, and repeatedly primed himself to commit suicide.
Today, he said his support group has about 500 members, of which about 290 are “regulars”.
He told the News Letter: “The one thing that needs to be done for victims is health and wellbeing.
“They need looking after. And there’s people out there who are crying for help and they can’t get it, because these boys can’t agree anythnig and everything is sitting up the air.
“If somebody comes to the group looking counselling or whatever, mental health [services], by the time you’d get a doctor’s appointment that person could’ve killed themselves 10 times.”
Of the idea of an agreed candidate, he said: “It’s a good idea. But whether it gets off the ground or not is another thing.”
Meanwhile it emerged yesterday that Barry McElduff has been granted an arcane aristocratic-style title after his resignation.
He has been appointed as Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundreds of Chiltern as part of the age-old formalities around MPs’ resignations.
When Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams quit Westminster in 2011 he was granted the title of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.