Belfast Telegraph

Omagh relatives' fury at Michael McKevitt freedom plea

By Rebecca Black

Relatives of some of those killed in the Omagh bomb have expressed their anguish at a campaign by several members of the Irish parliament to have dissident leader Michael McKevitt released from jail.

McKevitt is serving his final year of a 20-year sentence at Portlaoise Prison in the Republic for directing terrorism.

He was also convicted of membership of an illegal organisation, the Real IRA, and was one of four men found liable for the 1998 Omagh bombing in a civil action at Belfast High Court taken by relatives of the dead. Five TDs have now come together to call for his early release on compassionate grounds after he had a cancerous kidney removed in May.

Former Fianna Fail minister Eamon O Cuiv and Independents Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Maureen O'Sullivan and Thomas Pringle are lobbying Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald for McKevitt to be released while recovering from the surgery.

McKevitt's son Stephen has argued that the matter is a "humanitarian issue" as it emerged yesterday that his father had already been temporarily released.

Michael Gallagher, who lost his 21-year-old son Aiden in the Omagh bomb, said the families of the victims were shocked to hear McKevitt had been out for three months.

The Real IRA bomb killed 29 people and unborn twins on August 15, 1998.

"The families were shocked," Mr Gallagher said.

"We were never told, we have not been kept up to date and never informed that McKevitt was out for three months.

"I feel that the families have been let down by the Garda. They have not met with us for several years - we don't even know if the investigation into the Omagh bomb is still ongoing."

Mr Gallagher said the TDs who were backing the campaign for McKevitt's release should be more interested in helping victims.

"McKevitt was found responsible for the worst single atrocity of the Troubles, he has a long terrorist history and of human rights violations over 40 years yet his concerns are being heard while ours - the victims - are being ignored."

Belfast Telegraph


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