| 0.9°C Dublin

Terror chief Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt believed to be responsible for Omagh bombing dies

McKevitt launched the dissident republican group the Real IRA, which carried out the Omagh bombing just four months after the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

Close

Michael McKevitt

Michael McKevitt

Michael McKevitt

Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt, who was one of four men found liable for the Omagh bombing, has died after a long battle with cancer.

Described as an unrepentant Republican by sympathisers, McKevitt, who was released from prison in 2016 after serving a 20-year sentence for directing terrorism, had been terminally ill since he was diagnosed with cancer in 2015.

He was jailed by the non-jury Special Criminal Court for 20 years in 2003, backdated to 2001, for directing terrorism and for membership of an illegal organisation styling itself as the Real IRA.

McKevitt had a cancerous kidney removed in May 2015 and was returned to jail five and a half weeks later.

Close

Former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt (Niall Carson/PA)

Former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt (Niall Carson/PA)

Former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt (Niall Carson/PA)

A native of Co Louth, McKevitt joined the Provisional IRA at the outbreak of the Troubles.

He was married to Bernadette Sands-McKevitt, a sister of 1981 hunger striker and MP Bobby Sands.

In February 1975 he was shot in the knees by the Official IRA during a feud between the two groups.

He was a long-time senior member of the Provisional IRA before quitting in protest at its ceasefires.

McKevitt launched the dissident republican group the Real IRA, which carried out the Omagh bombing just four months after the Good Friday Agreement was signed.

Close

Police officers and firefighters inspecting the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, in 1998 (Paul McErlane/PA)

Police officers and firefighters inspecting the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, in 1998 (Paul McErlane/PA)

Police officers and firefighters inspecting the damage caused by a bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, in 1998 (Paul McErlane/PA)

The 1998 attack was the single biggest atrocity of the Troubles, claiming 29 lives, including a woman pregnant with twins. All of the defendants denied having any involvement in the bombing.

He had claimed he was framed and wrongly blamed for the Omagh bomb.

However, in 2009 a judge in a civil case in Belfast High Court ruled that McKevitt, Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly were all liable for the bombing, and ordered them to hand over £1.6m in damages.

That decision was upheld on appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

In November of last year, his family had been called to his hospital bedside as the 70-year-old fought for his life in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin.

Yesterday notices appeared on Republican websites that paid tribute to the “Unrepentant Fearless Soldier & Leader Unbowed and Unbroken’.

The Republican Network for Unity said they were “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend and comrade Oglach Michael McKevitt”.

"Michael was a fearless and committed Republican soldier,” they said in a post.

“He joined the ranks of the Provisional Irish Republican Army from the inception of the conflict, he was wounded in a feud with the stickies in the early 1970s."

They added: "Michael disagreed with the direction of the movement from the mid-90s, he was a staunch opponent of the Good Friday Agreement and was totally against the '94 and '97 ceasefires called by the IRA."

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Online Editors


Privacy