Derry Journal

'Explain Yourselves' - Dissidents Told

Friday 28th January 2005

Republican firebombers have been challenged to explain why they burnt down a business outlet in jobs-starved Strabane.

The call was made by the Sinn Fein chairman of Strabane District Council, Councillor Jarlath McNulty, after police confirmed that they believe an arson attack at the Linton and Robinson store was caused by an incendiary device.

Councillor McNulty said: "If it transpires that this fire to the Dock Street premises was caused by an incendiary then those behind it need to explain the rationale behind it to the people of this area.

"There is definitely no support within the local nationalist /republican community for such an attack and indeed there would be widespread anger that jobs are being put at risk as a result of it."

The council's Employment Task Force had been proactively working to maintain and create jobs and the Strabane 2000 group was striving to regenerate the town centre to make it a more attractive proposition for the shopping public and inward investors, he said.

"Attacks like this are extremely damaging to these efforts," the Sinn FÈin council chairman warned.

Colr. McNulty said: "Regardless of the problems in the peace process, and no matter how intractable they may seem at present, such attacks show the need to speedily replace the present political vacuum with genuine political dialogue and progress.

It is the only way forward."

DLP West Tyrone MLA Eugene McMenamin described the incendiary attack on Linton & Robinson's hardware and agricultural stores as a "cruel blow to a town struggling to make a better future for all its people."

The family-run business, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, was practically synonymous with Strabane and had recently invested hundreds of thousands of pounds renovating its department store.

'Lowest of the low' Mr. McMenamin said: "As yet, no group has come forward to claim responsibility. Whoever they are, words of condemnation will doubtless mean absolutely nothing to the people who caused this destruction."

Branding those responsible as "the lowest of the low," the SDLP MLA who is also a member of Strabane District Policing Partnership, said: "Extra resources need to be put in place to prevent another attack. The police should make every effort to apprehend these people."

Also hitting out at the firebombers, West Tyrone UUP Assembly Member, Derek Hussey, said: "The community in Strabane has been striving towards the creation of a town environment that will attract business into the area and enhance the overall social well being of the entire district.

"Linton and Robinson's have shown their commitment to this regeneration effort in a positive way through the recent major refurbishment of their premises and are deserving of praise and support for their efforts."

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