Terror on the streets: Infamous dissident is out of jail

NewsBy Eamon Dillon
Mickey McKevitt
Mickey McKevitt

Terror boss Michael McKevitt is back on the streets despite losing a legal battle in which he claimed to have been too long in jail.

The Real IRA chief had been serving 20 years for membership of a terror group but has now been released from Portlaoise Prison the Sunday World can reveal.

He was given temporary release last month, which has since been renewed on weekly basis.  

He is believed to be battling cancer, but was nowhere to be seen at his home in Blackrock, Co Louth this weekend.

Sources claimed the man held responsible for the Omagh bomb was furious at prison bosses after news of his illness became public.

The County Louth native has a long history with paramilitary groups.

He first joined the Provisional IRA during the outbreak of the Troubles in the early 1970s. 

At one stage, he was shot by the Official IRA during the violent feud between the armed groups.

He rose through the ranks of the Provos to become their Quartermaster General with responsibility for storing their guns, explosives and ammunition.

McKevitt strongly disagreed with the Good Friday Agreement and left the Provos in protest, setting up the Real IRA.

His knowledge of Provos’ arms dumps gave the dissidents the capability to carry out terror attacks.

While in jail, the dissident republicans continued to splinter and McKevitt was kicked out of the Real IRA.

Michael Gallagher

In June 2009, McKevitt was one of four men found by a civil court to be liable for the 1998 Omagh bombing in a case taken by relatives of the victims.

But relatives of those killed in the Real IRA’s Omagh bomb atrocity are furious that they had not been informed of the decision to release him. 

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden died in the devastating 1998 blast, which killed 33 people, said the victims are considered “irrelevant in these matters”.

“There is very little respect for the families. They should have been informed at least that he was going to be released,” he said.

“That’s something both the British and Irish governments need to put legislation in place to make sure the families who are the victims of serious criminals are notified of people being released,” he added.

“For quite a number of years that has been the case in Spain where families are kept up to date and know exactly what is happening. It’s said that the families have to learn this through the media,” he told the Sunday World.

“It’s unfortunate, we’re a European country and yet we don’t do this for the victims.

“The victims are irrelevant to these things as far as governments are concerned, that’s the way it is. There’s nobody serving time for Omagh, McKevitt was never charged for it,” he added.

Last December, a judge ruled that Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, was entitled to refuse McKevitt remission to give him early release.

McKevitt had made the argument that under prison rules he was entitled to be released from his 20-year sentence which had been backdated to 2001. 

He claimed he had not been given proper consideration for a one-third reduction in his sentence for good behaviour.

His legal case made a number of arguments, including that he has been a model prisoner and has engaged in a number of activities in the prison. The activities include courses in computing, web design, speech and drama, art, French and yoga. 

He has also completed a course offered by the Open University in creative writing. McKevitt claimed that the minister took into consideration improper material, including a report from the Garda Siochana that he was likely to re-offend.

Among McKevitt’s arguments was that before making her decision the minister was told that he is a spokesperson for a paramilitary organisation.

This, he says is “factually incorrect” and he acts as a spokesperson for Republican Prisoners on E2 wing of Portlaoise prison in their day-to-day dealings with the prison staff.

Judge Peter Kelly ruled that the minister was entitled to take into account all of the matters before her.  

McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in 2003 for directing terrorism and membership of an illegal organisation the Real IRA.