Belfast Telegraph

Setback for Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt in bid for early release

By Nicola Anderson

Convicted Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt is facing a major setback in his bid for early release, after the Republic's Supreme Court ordered the re-arrest of a criminal released on the same grounds on which McKevitt had been relying.

Eddie Ryan Junior, son of deceased Limerick gangland boss Eddie Ryan, is on his way back behind bars after the Dublin court issued a warrant for his arrest, after finding that his release by the High Court under Article 40 of the Irish Constitution was invalid.

McKevitt (59) had sought early release over his conviction for directing terrorism.

His lawyers argued a recent High Court decision meant he was entitled to a third remission on his 20-year sentence rather than a quarter.

But the Supreme Court has overturned the Eddie Ryan precedent cited by his legal team.

Ryan will be brought back to the Midlands Prison to serve out the rest of his term.

With normal remission, he is expected to be released in November.

The 31-year-old was sentenced to six years' imprisonment in July 2010 after pleading guilty to firearms offences, admitting possession of a high-powered pistol and 15 rounds of ammunition.

His lawyers argued that he was entitled to remission, as he has been of good behaviour and has availed of structured activities and courses in prison.

Alan Shatter, the then Irish Minister for Justice, turned down Ryan's application to be released with one-third remission last year, saying he did not qualify.

In a High Court hearing, Colman Fitzgerald SC for Eddie Ryan, said the minister did not give reasons for his decision and that his client did not know why his application was refused.

Mr Justice Max Barrett said he was ruling in favour of Ryan and ordered his immediate release. However that High Court ruling has now been set aside by the State's successful appeal to the Supreme Court.

McKevitt, of Beech Park, Blackrock in County Louth, was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was the first person in the Republic to be imprisoned for directing terrorism.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton had been due to give his ruling on an application for remission at the High Court in Dublin on Wednesday.

But he delayed his judgment until yesterday's Ryan case had been heard.

The panel of three judges in the Ryan case, Chief Justice Susan Denham, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman and Mr Justice John MacMenamin found that Ryan was not entitled to seek release under Article 40 of the Constitution – saying this was "not the appropriate remedy for the issue of remission".

The Supreme Court decision means the release of McKevitt is unlikely to succeed. The release of IRA prisoner Niall Farrell on the same grounds is also set to fail.

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