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Armed struggle the only thing the British take notice of, says founder of Real IRA

By Suzanne Breen

Published 29/03/2016

Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt refused to call for an end to violence
Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt refused to call for an end to violence

Former Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt has refused to say that dissident republican paramilitaries should end their campaign of violence in Northern Ireland.

McKevitt, who is battling cancer, has just been released from Portlaoise prison after serving 15 years on charges of directing terrorism and IRA membership.

In a statement, he said: "It is immaterial as to whether I agree or disagree - armed struggle or guerrilla warfare is a tactic which has been around for hundreds of years.

"Historically, the only form of resistance in Ireland that the British actually took notice of, was armed struggle like they did in 1916 and in every decade since."

McKevitt launched a stinging attack on his former Sinn Fein colleagues and questioned the party's claim to be republican.

"When I look at Sinn Fein, I believe their behaviour is akin to that of the looters on the streets of Dublin in 1916.

"They have turned the centenary commemoration into a financial racket, exploiting it for all they can. Shameful is probably the best description that I can use."

As quartermaster general of the IRA, McKevitt broke away from the Provisionals to form the Real IRA in 1997 and become the most high-profile republican opponent of the Adams-McGuinness leadership.

McKevitt was one of four people found liable in a civil case for the 1998 Omagh bomb in which 29 people were killed. The former Real IRA leader yesterday denied that he had any involvement in the bombing and said he had never been questioned in relation to it.

He described Omagh as "one of the worst tragedies of the conflict".

He alleged it could have been prevented but for a "conspiracy that involved three government agencies - MI5, FBI and the Irish to a lesser degree, along with their informants".

He claimed: "The bombers, whoever they were, were mere pawns in a much larger and more sinister political gameplan."

Responding to McKevitt's statement, Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan died in the bomb, said: "Michael McKevitt is entitled to express his political views, although our family hopes for a peaceful future in Northern Ireland, not more conflict.

"While the British, American, and Irish intelligence services have major questions to answer about Omagh, dissident republican involvement in the bombing cannot be written out of history.

"We want a cross-border public inquiry into Omagh and, given the sentiments he's now expressing, we would hope that Mr McKevitt would cooperate and take part in it."

In his statement, McKevitt said his political views hadn't changed during his 15 years in Portlaoise prison.

"I have consistently maintained one view throughout my adult life - that the British presence in Ireland is illegitimate and has been the most significant contributing factor to conflict and strife in Ireland," he said.

The former Real IRA leader denounced the 1998 Good Friday Agreement as "nothing other than Britain's attempt to stabilise its rule in Ireland".

He claimed it had "copper-fastened partition" by "co-opting Irish republicans into administering British rule".

McKevitt claimed that opposition to "the continuing British presence in Ireland" was well down Sinn Fein's priority list.

"There is no doubt that the Sinn Fein party has developed its base in the 26 counties but the struggle was not about the advancement of a political party that ditched its fundamental objectives along the way," he said.

"This same leadership said that they would smash the Union, would never sit in a British parliament and now we see they are happy to participate in that system.

"Many of them have carved their political careers on the graves of young men and women who gave their lives believing it was for an end to British rule."

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